RCP carried a VERY lengthy piece on Romney and the question yesterday by Jay Cost. The piece, while it makes some interesting points, is a bit ham-fisted. It just lacks subtlety, and certainly seems to miss the forest for the trees. Cost, a grad student, argues that while Romney's strategy on The Question is brilliant, his execution is flawed. He makes his argument primarily by a detailed analysis of the now-old-news WHO showdown. Cost's issues with Romney's presentation in that interview presume that Romney knew his comments were for public consumption. HE DID NOT. The vast majority of the discussion in that video occurred during a radio break, and Romney thought he was having a private discussion with the host. Such a situation hardly counts as a measure of Romney's tactical presentation with regards to the issue.
The other thing that I find interesting is that Cost argues that The Question may be an irrelevancy because:
Average voters – even average voters in a primary election – are not like political elites, i.e. those who by virtue of their knowledge of politics, their positions in politics, or their financial contributions to political actors, stand separate from the average voter. If "Romney and the Mormon Issue" is an intriguing title to you some four months before the first votes are casts, you are probably somebody who possesses a unique amount of political information that implies a difference between you and the average voter.
Average voters are not like you. They do not have a great interest in politics, and their knowledge of politics is highly constrained. This, I think, is relevant for Romney and the Mormon issue. I think that it is likely the case that the Mormon issue only becomes a salient issue in the mind of average voters if Romney's political opponents make it an issue. Of course, I can envision scenarios in which the Mormon issue becomes salient even if his opponents do not make it salient. However, it seems to me that the most likely path for this issue to become salient is if Giuliani or Thompson tries to make it so.
If this is indeed the case, and I think Cost is on to something here, the "average voter" is not going to see that interview video either, so again any "mistakes" he may have made are irrelevant. But then I don't think Romney made any mistakes in the interview. Most religious voters I know liked Romney getting a bit testy.
The other thing that stuck out in my mind about Cost's piece was this:
Romney and his campaign have drawn comparisons to John Kennedy in 1960. This is not all that valid – and so his frequent references to Kennedy seem forced and opportunistic.
How do I say this? That's just ignorant. Yes, "the Kennedy parallel" has been discussed to death as it relates to The Question, but it is not Romney that has drawn the comparison. Has he commented on it? Yes, every interview he has done, he has been asked about it, as if the interviewer thought he/she had discovered some arcane bit of previously unknown history – he had to comment on it. That said, he has not drawn the parallel himself at all, just responded to it. The press as been forced and opportunistic, but not Romney.
Speaking of students…
One at the University of Illinois makes more sense to me than Cost does, Still obviously student written though.
Romney won't be seeing September Dawn. Ooh, there's a surprise. The man is running for president, I think he probably has better things to do with his time than see a movie, any movie.