As the Republican Presidential candidates commit prolonged fratricide, President Obama and David Axelrod are crushing them on another front: public relations. Leveraging the twin tools of division and deceit, they are proving the Republicans to be monumentally incompetent at controlling their message and managing voter perceptions.
President Obama is 6 months into his “divide America” tour, figuring rightly that it’s pretty easy to turn 99% of the population against the wealthier 1%, even in spite of the fact that this 1% pays 40% of all Federal taxes. As a sweetener he gives the impression that this 1% makes up the entire Republican party, and sadly this is consumed and accepted by too many Americans.
But Obama and Axelrod’s most brilliant stroke is a thing of beauty if you are into political strategy. Imagine this: A few months ago Axelrod and Obama are in a strategy session, Axelrod at the whiteboard. He notes in black ink, capital letters, “WE MUST INSPIRE THE BASE”. As they list the potential ways to do so, a lightning bolt of genius strikes.
Axelrod: “How about this. We get Kathleen (Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services) to require religious institutions to provide insurance for birth control and other reproductive procedures”.
Obama: “David, that is unconstitutional and immoral, but please tell me more…”.
Axelrod: “Barack, please stop pretending you are that guy from the 2007 campaign and let’s get back to reality here. Think about it. We will issue this order to religious institutions, and the Republicans and institutions themselves– especially the bishops and Catholic Church– will go absolutely nuts. And when they do, that’s when we make our sleight of hand. We, and our friends in the media, spin this reaction from the Church and Republicans into an anti-woman issue!”
Obama: “Brilliant, David! You have not lost a step in these last 3 years. I don’t know what I’d do without you”.
Axelrod (Under his breath): “You’d spend the next 30 years of your life reading about how you were a failed 1 term President, and people would argue whether you were slightly better or slightly worse than Jimmy Carter, that’s what you’d do without me”.
This is where Republican idiocy kicks in, and Axelrod and Obama get bonuses they couldn’t buy with a billion dollar Chicago bribe. Rush Limbaugh calls out one of the pawns in this strategy, Sandra Fluke. He (despicably) calls her a slut, ridicules her, and does so for days during his prime-time radio show. Rush, thinking he is providing great entertainment and forwarding the interests of Republicans, is actually doing the opposite. He is destroying the party, and he demonstrates the worst stereotypes that some associate with Republicans. He is destroying the legitimate criticism of the Obama/Sebelius policy and turning it into exactly what Obama wants it to appear to be, and that is anti-woman. Limbaugh unknowingly personifies what misogyny is, and Obama and his base attribute that to all Republicans. The candidates themselves inflict further damage to themselves with tepid criticism of Limbaugh. Obama’s favorable rating flies up the charts, and the Republican contenders’ ratings plunge. Brilliant, David and Barack. Absolutely brilliant.
And so we have a combination of immorality (by Obama, Axelrod, and Limbaugh), excellent political strategy (Obama, Axelrod), and incompetence (Republicans and especially Limbaugh) combining to further damage Republican hopes of taking back the White House. Even Republican chances to take back the Senate and House are now in danger, the odds plunging over the last 2 weeks as a result of Limbaugh and media distortion of the Republican position on religious institution’s insurance. An idea from a strategy session may turn the White House, Senate, and House to the Democrats.
Republicans need to get a nominee soon, and that nominee had best take control of the messaging or Obama will continue his campaign of division and distortion and be re-elected in a landslide.