Earlier in the week, Mitt Romney released his "Ocean" ad. Jonathan Martin, typically exuberant in his praise of Romney, had this to say:
Second, it seems as though this ad is yet more evidence of Romney trying to "close the deal" with social conservatives. The campaign increasingly views Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani as their main threats and wants to get to their right. So this is part and parcel of the "three-legged stool" message in which Mitt emphasizes the need for a candidate who is economically, fiscally and socially conservative.
I don’t buy this "close the deal" language. For the last several weeks, Romney has been attacked by social conservative leaders for making money off the peddling of porn. Romney is not trying to "close the deal." He is asking for a phone call or coffee to introduce himself. Let’s actually talk about facts here. A recent AP-Ipsos poll found:
None of the top candidates has a clear lead among Christian evangelicals, a critical part of the GOP base that has had considerable sway in past Republican primaries. Giuliani, a thrice-married backer of abortion rights and gay rights, had 20 percent support — roughly even with Thompson and McCain who have one divorce each in their pasts. Romney, a Mormon who has been married for three decades, was in the single digits.
The hope for Romney is that this is a name-id problem, not a substance problem. I don’t think it is for two reasons. Thompson’s name ID is consistently lower than Romney’s but Thompson is consistently beating Romney in these groups. People know things about Mitt Romney and don’t like him because of it. Any review of his polling numbers will tell you that.
Now, Justin Hart, who is on Romney’s Faith and Values Steering Committee addresses the ad, and the porn dustup-like this:
Instead, I knew something that Gary didn’t… Governor Romney is the only major candidate willing to publically take action on this issue. I also knew that behind the scenes the Romney camp was going to spend actual dollars addressing this issue with a new TV ad. … In my opinion, Romney’s record shows that he could very well effect that change to happen. The fact that he included a serious anti-pornography group on his Faith and Values committee suggests this as well.
His answer seems to be "at least Romney is talking about my issue." Which is an important point. I should note that Justin is misrepresenting Romney here. Romney did not include an "anti-pornography group" so much as a person. In fact the release clearly states that the groups are not endorsing, only the individuals. Justin, whose email address is ldsblogger@…..com was a Romney supporter long before he was working at the Lighted Candle Society. If Romney’s "actions" are (1) a misrepresentation, (2) meaningless, and (3) merely words, than there is a real question. After all, isn’t the concern for him that it is all just words, smoke and mirrors? Liz Mair captured this point:
Of course, that’s one of the criticisms I have of Romney and his entire campaign anyway. It’s all about figuring out what makes you look ideal to the largest number of diligent voters and then saying it, no matter how asinine, meaningless, or factually incorrect it is. The image, and getting votes, is literally 100% of what matters. At this stage in the game, nothing else seems to count at all. Real commitment to concrete, discernible principles or ideas certainly takes a back step to what’s popular with "The Base"
Romney’s campaign is that the same strategies that sell canned tomatoes (new packaging, smiling faces, perfect hair, etc.) will work for candidates. We shall see. Our primary electorate might just fall for it, but I can’t see how his guy gets through the general election.