Dan Fitzgerald and New Matilda go way back — to 2005 when he was our first intern. He’s gone on to file stories for us from around the world. He’s now cooling his heels in New York City and will file a regular column on US politics as the 2012 presidential poll looms.
Chalk up last week as a win for the Democrats. Missouri Republican Todd Akin’s "legitimate rape" comments probably couldn’t have gone down any worse if he’d followed them up with a live demonstration.
While the Romney camp did manage to put enough space between itself and Akin to land a 747 — though perhaps not Air Force One — no one comes out looking like a winner when they’re asked to define rape every 10 minutes.
But the Obama and Romney camps did find find some common ground: rape, apparently, is rape. Sorted.
Akin’s attempts to tough it out dominated the news cycle for the entire week, much to the chagrin of the GOP. The most colourful description of Akin to come out of the party machine was that the representative "lives in a parallel universe"; one that, apparently, has made some fascinating evolutionary leaps in the female reproductive system.
Pretty much every living Republican urged Akin to withdraw from the Missouri electoral race and never say anything into a microphone ever again. You know you’ve strayed a little when even Sarah Palin says you should toe the party line.
It hasn’t been all bad news for Akin, though, with former Republican primary candidate and Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee throwing his weight behind the beleagured pollie. Or more accurately, attacking the party for excommunicating Akin so quickly.
Of course, in the end, it is electoral economics which will most likely to defeat Akin. No one wants to be seen to donate to a man who, as one wag put it, has effectively secured the rapist vote.
And yet, through it all, polls still have Romney and Obama practically neck-and-neck.
An unconventional build-up
Akin’s remarks and subsequent refusal to kindly be quiet and piss off overshadowed a week which should have been all about the build-up to today’s Republican Convention in Tampa.
If Hurricane Isaac doesn’t force everyone to take shelter under their piles of money, Romney’s speech is widely anticipated as his best chance of exciting anyone beyond the rusted-on base about his candidacy and shedding the image of being as animated as "the groom on top of a wedding cake". Quite how he’s going to accomplish this without breaking out into gangster rap is anyone’s guess.
Democrats have been far more successful in defining Romney as something of a bloodsucking venture-capitalist, which is somewhat in vogue because…
Wealth is so last decade
If the GFC and subsequent Occupy movement achieved anything, it’s that many Americans are now suspicious of rich people.
For example, one Obama campaign commercial I saw last week focused on Romney’s private wealth and how little tax he paid; "probably less than you". No doubt, extensive focus group research has determined that most Americans will not be impressed by Mitt’s ability to keep the government out of his pocket.
Criticisms of Romney almost invariably stem from his immense wealth, which Democrats have tried to characterise as incompatible with an American populace that is doing it tough. Interestingly, nobody seemed to mind in 2004 when John Kerry, a Democrat, ran for president boasting a personal net worth of around $194m, while his wife enjoyed the spoils of a baked beans empire.
But you can usually rely on the internet to boil down public figures to their most memorable traits, and this music video more or less summarises Mitt’s image problems inside three minutes.
After much criticism over his refusal to release his full tax records for the last decade, Romney did eventually come up with an interesting excuse: it’s between him and his God.
Romney’s Mormonism has taken a bit of a back seat so far in this campaign, but that’s expected to change at the convention, with more than a half-dozen Mormons slated to address the throng. One strategist remarked that Romney feels he has the evangelical Christian vote solidly behind him, "so he can bring Mormonism safely to the fore."
Not that he’s even got the entire Mormon locked down, of course. The Big Love crowd has been a bit disappointed by Romney’s stance on polygamy.
Finally, a foreigner’s impression
For all the money that’s going into this election, what’s remarkable is how all-pervasive it’s not. In my Brooklyn neighbourhood, there are no flyers being handed out, no corflutes haphazardly tied to telegraph poles, and I’ve only seen two television commercials in several weeks of channel-hopping.
This might come from living in a consistently Democrat district that no one is bothering to waste election money on — but I’d say it’s also a measure of living in a largely politically apathetic country.
Not everyone walking the street is a potential vote; at best they’re only a potential voter.
Campaign video of the week
It wouldn’t be a US presidential campaign without a slew of campaign vids. Watch Paul Ryan tell a joke.
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