Mitt Romney’s relentless. self-financing television advertising machine rolls on, inundating the New Hampshire market with attack ads targeting Senator John McCain, who has staged a surge in the polls which threatens to upset Romney, a “favorite son” from neighboring Massachusetts.
Romney already has run misogynistic ads in New Hampshire attacking Hillary Clinton. The former first lady of Arkansas and the United States, a two-term U.S. Senator, is smeared with an allusion to Monica Lewinsky as Romney, in an apparent stump speech, claims that Clinton has never “run anything”, and that the U.S. cannot afford having her “learn” the Presidency via an “internship.” In fact, Clinton was one of the managing partners of a top Arkansas law firm, a fact that cannot have escaped a Republican such as Romney since the Republican Congress attacked the firm relentlessly during her husband’s presidency. The “internship” crack, of course, is an allusion to the Monica Lewinsky scandal that was exploited politically by the Republican Congressional leadership of which at least two members were having adulterous affairs at the same time. Hillary Clinton is far more politically experienced than is Romney, the one-term governor of Massachusetts who did not run for reelection as he likely would have lost and seen his national political ambitions ruined.
The misogynistic attack ad now is being run in Michigan, which will go to the polls a week after the New Hampshire primary. In New Hampshire,
Logic or consistency has never been one of Mitt Romney’s strong points, as his record as governor of the Bay State has shown, and which is heightened by his rivals. However, the master flip-flopper of his generation has a $250-million fortune and is financing a media blitz on his own. He has the pecuniary power and, via TV ads, is attempting to transfigure that power into political currency. Now that he has fallen into a statistical dead-heat with McCain after leading New Hampshire polls since the political campaign began he has been targeting his chief rival.
Romney is betting heavily on a backlash against illegal immigration, as much of his literature being mailed to and distributed to New Hampshire voters features that theme, as do several of his TV ads. John McCain, who has emerged as his main opponent in New Hampshire, is the focus of these anti-immigration ads.
Romney’s anti-immigration ads target McCain as an apologist for illegal immigrants who sought to grant all illegal immigrants citizenship and rights to Social Security benefits. That these proposals have their lineage in the immigration reform legislation of the late 1980s and have the support of the Bush Administration is not mentioned. Ads typically couple the anti-immigration slant with an attack on McCain for not supporting the repeal of the “death tax” and for not voting for all of Bush tax cuts. These dual-themed ads strike a populist note in a reactionary vein, as they bash illegal immigrants, that term being a cognate for “Mexican,” and promote tax cuts.
Unfortunately for the majority of voters who fall for Romney’s demagoguery, the reality is that the “death tax” the centi-millionaire harps on actually is the federal estate tax that effects estates worth a minimum of $6 million. This “death tax” effects only a tiny minority of tax payers but which is a favorite of the right-wing shock radio jocks, who count on their audience not wanting an explanation of the tax but simply engaging in a Palovian reaction to the word “tax.” Repealing the “death tax” also is a favorite subject of the corporate-funded right-wing and conservative think tanks and media. The tax cuts that Romney complains that McCain didn’t vote for inordinately were skewed towards the rich and upper-middle-class and did not benefit the middle class or working poor.
In his latest attack ad, Romney has seemingly normal New Hampshire voters, none of whom looks particularly prosperous, serving as his mouthpiece. Romney’s attacks on McCain, such as those indicting his humanistic approach to immigration, lead off with an apology: “John McCain is an honorable man….” immediately followed up with the conjunction “But.” The talking heads of the new ad fill in the talking points after the “but”, but it is the same talking points of previous ads except for one fillip: a matronly woman ties up the ad with the observation that “He’s had his chance in Washington to make things better,” the implication being that he failed.
The ad does not reveal that the woman who is tarring McCain as a failure is part of the Romney campaign orgnization. According to the Associated Press, the woman, “Marie Paling, is a Romney supporter who is a member of his New Hampshire Women’s Leadership Team Steering Committee.”
It is a low blow and an insult to McCain, who has always been a political maverick typically on the outs with the leaders of his party in the Senate, but who remained loyal to his party, turning down John Kerry’s offer of the vice presidential spot on his ticket.
McCain’s response ads runing in New Hampshire are simpler. It quotes the Manchester Union-Leader and the Concord Monitor, the latter paper having called Romney a “phony,” and winds up with the revlation that Romney’s “home-town newspaper” (the Boston Globe, not mentioned by name in the ad) endorsed McCain, as did both the Union-Leader and the Monitor.
John McCain’s theme in his latest ads highlights the barometric flip-flopping of Mitt Romney: “You haven’t changed and neither have I.” McCain was the winner of the 2000 New Hampshire primary.
Romney is the only candidate running attack ads in New Hampshire. A backlash against going negative may hurt Romney, as John McCain is popular in New Hampshire, his no-nonsense, straight-talking persona resonnating well in the Granite State. McCain’s aura of heroism, personal sacrifice and statesmanship goes down well with the typical New Hampshirite, whose state motto is “Live Free or Die.” McCain has paid his dues, and TV images of Mitt Romney with jackbooted Massachusetts states policemen in jodphurs underneath a diatribe against illegal immigrants might not go over as well as intended with Granite Staters, most of whom have a certain animosity against neighboring “Taxachusetts” that Romney’s own antipathy towards his home state might not do enough to ameliorate.
Romney’s attack ads were mentioned in exchange over immigration policy during the January 5, 2008 Republican debate. McCain had pointed out that Romney, while governor of Massachusetts did not call his immigration reform plan an “amnesty” but had actually commended it as “reasonable.”
“It’s not amnesty,” McCain told Romney. “And for you to describe it as you do in the attack ads, my friend, you can spend your whole fortune on these attack ads, but it will won’t be true.”