Both the Obama and Romney campaigns pulled back on attacking each other a bit as the nation focused on the huge recovery effort looming ahead, but each kept the election within their sites.
Obama had the advantage of using the office of the presidency to show how well he could respond to the crisis. That’s advertising even the best money can’t buy. Even the Romney campaign couldn’t help trying to polish the apple a bit as it contributed to a worthy cause.
The Atlantic.com reported that the Romney campaign staged a storm relief event in Kettering, Ohio, aiming to have the candidate seen collecting donations. But aides stocked the donation table with $5,000 worth of supplies from Walmart, just in case folks showed up to the rally empty-handed or after they had already dropped off goods and donations at a relief site nearby.
“The props, according to Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins, were things like granola bars, canned food, and diapers which were strategically placed to make sure that the photographs taken at Romney’s “Storm Relief” campaign didn’t a show very un-busy, un-stocked relief table … ,” Atlantic.com reported.
“And apparently, the event was so manufactured that they allowed supporters to use the donations which were bought by the campaign, to donate back to the campaign.”
Would it not have been simpler to have Romney show up with $5,000 in goods to help the real relief effort instead of making it appear that he was participating in an already-in-progress effort?
It’s not the first miscue by the Romney-Ryan team. Last month, Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, was shown scrubbing pans at a St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen in Ohio. The problem was the pans were already clean and the shelter had already served breakfast and the clients were gone. The campaign got volunteers to open up the kitchen to give Ryan a photo op.
These events are snapshots into how the candidates might handle awkward, uncomfortable and possibly hazardous situations.
Romney already has demonstrated a knack for changing his message, depending on the crowd he addresses – saying recently he would save some aspects of health care reform, protect Social Security for current retirees, despite earlier claims to repeal and change them – and his campaign has shown it will stick with a storyline even after it has been debunked.
Last week, Romney told a rally in Defiance, Ohio, that Jeep, which benefited from the Obama bailout of parent company Chrysler, was “thinking of moving all production to China,” which meant that Ohio jobs would be lost in the transfer.
Jeep, however, added about 7,000 jobs after coming out of bankruptcy three years ago, is still adding jobs in the U.S. and is investing in its American plants.
Dana Milbank of The Washington Post wrote Wednesday that “Romney’s fiction was apparently based on a misreading of a Bloomberg News report a few days earlier, which said that Chrysler would resume production in China [where plants had already existed for years] for the first time since parent Fiat SpA bought the company – in addition to Chrysler’s production in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.”
Chrysler executive Gualberto Ranieri even issued a statement denying it would move all production to China.
But the Romney campaign kept the story going, albeit altered a tad, in its campaign ads, saying, “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”
Well, that’s true, but no American jobs will be lost in the process. Something the Romney ad fails to mention.
Milbank said while both candidates have had their share of “whoppers” throughout the campaign, with Obama claiming 90 percent of the deficit being caused by George W. Bush for example, that Romney has made misleading information “a whole new category.”
The sad fact in all of this is that many voters don’t realize how much of this is a part of the game and how much they’ve been played until the rubber meets the road – or the hurricane roars through your state.
Two weeks ago, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, trashed Obama, saying, “The president doesn’t know how to lead. He’s like a man who is wandering around a dark room hand up against the wall clutching for the light switch of leadership, and he just can’t find it…”
After the Obama administration responded quickly to the devastation in New Jersey following Sandy, Christie had nothing but praise for the president, saying, “The president has been all over this and he deserves great credit.”
He even told Fox News, when asked if he would invite Romney for a tour of the state, said: “If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”
It took the blinding rains of a storm to make everything crystal clear.
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”