Democrats were very successful at painting Mitt Romney as the man on the monopoly box with his spectacles, top hat, cane, and car elevator. They cast him as “out of touch” with ordinary Americans and much of it stuck with him throughout the 2012 campaign. Welcome to 2016 where the reverse playbook may be forming within the confines of Republican National Committee conference rooms.
Report from Politico:
Forget about the Arkansas days, the small-bore scandals, her health care plan, and most everything else from the 1990s. A consensus is forming within the Republican Party that the plan of attack against Hillary Clinton should be of a more recent vintage, rooted in her accumulation of wealth and designed to frame her as removed from the concerns of average Americans.
With close to 20 announced and prospective GOP 2016 candidates, there’s no singular, unified messaging effort yet. But interviews with GOP consultants, party officials and the largest conservative super PACs point to an emerging narrative of a wealthy, out-of-touch candidate who plays by her own set of rules and lives in a world of private planes, chauffeured vehicles and million-dollar homes.
The out-of-touch plutocrat template is a familiar one: Democrats used it to devastating effect against Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. While Hillary Clinton’s residences in New York and Washington may not have car elevators, there’s still a lengthy trail of paid speeches, tone-deaf statements about the family finances and questions about Clinton family foundation fundraising practices that will serve as cornerstones of the anti-Clinton messaging effort.
The outlines of the effort to Mitt Romnify Hillary Clinton are still being sketched. Crossroads, the super PAC that spent $70 million in 2012 mostly on television ads attacking President Obama, is currently in the middle of an extensive research project analyzing voters’ existing perceptions of Clinton and their reactions to a number of potential critiques. But the Republican National Committee has done focus groups that suggest Clinton is more vulnerable to charges of being impervious and bending the rules than anything else tested against her.
“The most potent message against Clinton is that she doesn’t live an average life, she’s out of touch and doesn’t play by the same set of rules,” said the RNC’s research director, Raj Shah. “[T]hat resonates more deeply than some of the policy hits, the ethical hits.”
I’m thinking that the ultimate success or failure of this strategy will reside more with who the eventual GOP nominee is, rather than whether these attacks would stick on Hillary Clinton. I’m certain in many ways, they will. However, it would be hard to contrast her life with, say, Jeb Bush, and argue she’s more out-of-touch than he may be.
The other issue, as I see it, is one of principle. If Republicans want to avoid much of the class warfare which has dominated recent election cycles, this is not the way to attack Hillary Clinton. I would be questioning whether Republicans should be attacking Hillary the way Elizabeth Warren would when they claim to be the party of free markets and capitalism.
It’s going to make for an interesting dynamic.