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Posted by on Jul 17, 2012 in Politics | 16 comments

Romney Surrogate John Sununu Channels Rush Limbaugh (UPDATED)

Once again whatever Rush wants, Rush gets. On his show yesterday, conservative talk show titan Rush Limbaugh angrily said Camp Romney needs to go after Obama on the college-age drug use Obama admitted to in a passage in his biography. So today Romney’s high profile surrogate John Sununu — yew guessed it! — raised the drug issue and also told reporters Obama needs to learn how to be an American.

Sununu on Fox:

“He has no idea how the American system functions,” Sununu said on Fox News Tuesday. “And we shouldn’t be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent … another set of years in Indonesia.”

And to reporters:

In a brutal campaign conference call Tuesday organized by Mitt Romney’s campaign, several of the candidate’s surrogates went after President Obama with fiery attacks accusing him of socialism, and being un-American.

“I wish this president would learn how to be an American,” said former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu said toward the beginning of the call. Asked later to explain his comment, Sununu said he was referring to Obama’s economic philosophy, and apologized for not being clearer.

Some thoughts:
1. There are MANY independent voters (I know because I met a lot of them in my Sept through June national tour where I drove some 40,000 miles all over the country) who would vote for a thoughtful, serious, foward-looking, specificity offering Republican candidate for President. Clearly, the GOP is not offering one this year. Is it too late for a Romney course correction?
2. Calling Obama a Socialist, or suggesting he is not as American as someone registered as a Republican who loves Sean Hannity is — again — preaching to the choir. It will NOT win over a big chunk of independent voters and will, in fact, lose them.
3. It does smell of the Romney campaign trying to do something — anything — to move the media narrative off of Bain Capital and Romney’s tax returns.
4. Over the top rhetoric which is more suitable for a fill in host for Michael Savage is bound to alienate the chunk of the non-monolithic independent voters that are a)moderate Republicans who feel exiled by their party, b)conservative Republicans who are unhappy with talk radio and Tea Party influence in their party (center-right), c)independent voters who will not join a party due to the demonizing political polemics partisans indulge in d)centrist or more conservative Democrats who don’t like their party’s liberal wing.
5. Calling Obama in effect un-American and a former druggie is so over the top many editors and reporters will harden their feelings towards the Romney campaign since this will be coupled with the questions about Bain and Romney refusing to issue more tax returns.
6. It now neutralizes an issue that was lingering out there: Democratic suggestions that Romney committed a felony on the Bain matter — an unsupported charge that Democrats tip toed back because it was clear that had started to crystalize a new narrative of a ruthless, demonizing Obama campaign. That narrative will now wither due to this two-pronged Sununu festival (which will is now bound to be vomited up by other radio and cable talkers and partisan bloggers).
7. The youth vote is questionable in value (very unreliable in terms of realizing its potential) but going on about Obama smoking when he was college age won’t help the GOP’s image as a party of well-fed old guys among younger voters.

Rush will love it, Sean will love it and many bloggers will applaud it. And the Romney campaign will respond from the love sent their way by the powerful talkers and do more of the same.

But it’s going to turn off a chunk of voters.

P.S. Mr. Sununu: Did you get the news? Joe McCarthy died years ago.

Time’s solid Mark Halperin has a straight report on Sununu’s comments. He frames it this way:

In a Tuesday morning Romney campaign media conference call, the always quotable former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu hit the President hard on political cronyism — and talked taxes, Bain, jobs, campaign ads and more.

He offers a collection of quotes and most of them are good, tough surrogate type quotations.

He also gives this response from the Obama camp:

“The Romney campaign has officially gone off the deep end. The question is what else they’ll pull to avoid answering serious questions about Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts. This meltdown and over-the-top rhetoric won’t make things better — it only calls attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation.”

This song really seems fitting in terms of Rush Limbaugh and many Republicans. All you’d have to do is change a few lyrics. Just imagine Rush Limbaugh singing this song (and doing this choreography):

UPDATE III: Ed Kilgore:

One of the prevailing assumptions about the presidential campaign has been that there would be a division of labor between the Romney campaign and the big conservative Super-PACs, whereby the former would promote some sort of “positive” message and the latter would savagely attack the president (much as Mitt’s Super-PACs did to his opponents during the primaries—or at least opponents not named “Ron Paul”)….

….Now even if you figure the Bain attacks are an existential threat to Team Mitt, and are appropriate for the campaign itself because they strike at the core of Romney’s Bain-centered “positive” message, this is pretty uninhibited stuff. And even if Sununu went off script (which is unlikely), you don’t put a guy like him out there unless you want some really hammer-headed talk. So the mystery remains: what kind of messaging might conceivably be off-limits to the campaign but not to the Super-PACs? The mind reels.