Rupert Murdoch's Twitter War on Romney Campaign

Mitt Romney has a new, unofficial campaign advisor -- not one he necessarily wanted, but one he can't ignore. That would be Rupert Murdoch, the disgraced billionaire CEO of News Corporation, owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, as well as a notorious handful of phone-hacking U.K.newspapers.

It began on July 1, with atweet:

Which, actually, you might think Romney would appreciate, since he likes firing people.

This morning, Murdoch's tweet was followed up with a hostile editorial in the Wall Street Journal that takes Romney to task for an assertion made by his top advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, that Romney does NOT agree with the Supreme Court's ruling that the mandate in the Affordable Care Act is a tax.

But it doesn't end there; the editorial goes on to criticize virtually every aspect of the Romney campaign, including the campaign messaging:

This latest mistake is of a piece with the campaign's insular staff and strategy that are slowly squandering an historic opportunity. Mr. Obama is being hurt by an economic recovery that is weakening for the third time in three years. But Mr. Romney hasn't been able to take advantage, and if anything he is losing ground.

The Romney campaign thinks it can play it safe and coast to the White House by saying the economy stinks and it's Mr. Obama's fault. We're on its email list and the main daily message from the campaign is that "Obama isn't working." Thanks, guys, but Americans already know that. What they want to hear from the challenger is some understanding of why the President's policies aren't working and how Mr. Romney's policies will do better.

Indeed, that message echoes a point made by Republican operative Ralph Reed at a workshop he led at his Faith and Freedom Coalition conference last month. From my notes, Reed's comments:

It isn't enough to be anti-Obama...If what this election is about is simply repealing Obamacare and making sure we never have another failed Obama stimulus, that's not enough for him. What I want is the deepest and broadest tax cut since the Reagan era. What I want is the Ryan budget -- passed and signed into law, so that we're moving America on a glide path to fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets and spending restraint. What I want is not just to keep Sotomayors and Kagans off the court; What I want are Scalias and Thomases and Alitos and Roberts[es] appointed to the federal courts at every level -- district, appellate and U.S. Supreme Court. So that's the message we have to go out there with.

Perhaps Team Romney fears the American people aren't entirely down with that program.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board obviously fears that Romney may not be able to counter the anti-Romney narrative being pushed by the Obama campaign (emphasis added):

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is assailing Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch rich man, and the rich man obliged by vacationing this week at his lake-side home with a jet-ski cameo. Team Obama is pounding him for Bain Capital, and until a recent ad in Ohio the Romney campaign has been slow to respond.

Team Obama is now opening up a new assault on Mr. Romney as ajob outsourcer with foreign bank accounts, and if the Boston boys let that one go unanswered, they ought to be fired for malpractice.

Not that there's any irony in Murdoch and the WSJ editorial board worrying about Romney looking like "an out-of-touch rich man."

The day after Murdoch's initial campaign-advice tweet (Off with their heads!), he gleefully noted, via Twitter, that he had irked the King of Bain:

Two days later, Romney contradicted Fehrnstrom, telling CBS News that, well yes, the Supreme Court was right; the mandate actually is a tax.

But, as the Associated Press reported, he tried to have it both ways:

Romney's campaign insisted it was not a change because the Republican said he agreed with the justices who dissented and would have ruled the mandate unconstitutional. The campaign said Romney agreed it is a tax simply because the court determines the 'law of the land.' 

Obviously, Mr. Murdoch was neither amused nor satisfied. From today's Wall Street Journal editorial:

In a stroke, the Romney campaign contradicted Republicans throughout the country who had used the Chief Justice's opinion to declare accurately that Mr. Obama had raised taxes on the middle class. Three-quarters of those who will pay the mandate tax will make less than $120,000 a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Romney high command has muddied the tax issue in a way that will help Mr. Obama's claims that he is merely taxing rich folks like Mr. Romney. And it has made it that much harder for Republicans to again turn ObamaCare into the winning issue it was in 2010.


AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at July 5, 2012, 6:16am