Commentary: Mitt Romney's Worst Week Ever

Keith Boykin and Mitt Romney

Commentary: Mitt Romney's Worst Week Ever

Instead of talking about jobs and the economy, Mitt Romney spent the week before the Republican National Convention doing damage control.

Published August 24, 2012

This could not be the way Mitt Romney wanted the week to go.

Instead of talking about jobs and the economy, Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan spent the week before the Republican National Convention talking about rape and abortion and a previously little known Missouri Congressman with a serious misunderstanding of human biology.

What could have been a one-day story last Sunday when Rep. Todd Akin tried to explain how a woman's body can magically repel nature during a "legitimate rape" turned into a week-long debacle as Republicans scrambled to distinguish their own far-right-wing position from Akin's far-right-wing position.

While the GOP establishment tried to cut its losses and sacrifice Akin at the altar of political expediency, the Missouri congressman refused to fall on his sword, leaving the party struggling to explain why 227 Republicans, including Romney's own running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, co-sponsored a bill with Akin to redefine rape using the offensive term "forcible rape."

Nor could they explain why Ryan also signed on to a controversial anti-abortion personhood amendment giving a fertilized egg in a mother's womb the full constitutional rights of a U.S. citizen.

How could Republicans argue that Akin was an exception to the rule when hundreds of Republican lawmakers agreed with his views on "forcible" rape and 64 of them would give a fetus a right to bear arms? And to make matters worse, the GOP this week approved a new right-wing platform that would outlaw abortion in all instances, even in cases of rape and incest.

By the end of the week, Romney was forced to follow Rush Limbaugh's orders: "Do not answer any questions about rape or abortion," the powerful radio host instructed all Republicans. So when Romney sat down for an interview with a Denver reporter on Thursday, he followed orders and made her agree not to ask any questions about Akin or abortion. And when his running mate Ryan was asked about his support for the bill he co-sponsored that tried to redefine rape, he cut off the reporter and dodged the question.

Meanwhile, a civil war erupted in the party as Akin flew to Tampa and was embraced by social conservatives upset that the party leadership was trying to run away from its own extremist position on abortion. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee blasted his party for abandoning Akin and feeding him to the "liberal wolves" and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins openly announced his support for the disgraced Missouri Senate candidate.

Remember, this all took place the week before the Republican Convention in Tampa.

On top of all that, new polls this week proved Romney's selection of Ryan had provided virtually "no bounce" for the GOP ticket in public opinion. And after the previous week of trying to muddy the waters on Ryan's proposal to push seniors into a voucher program for their health care, this week's polls showed Republicans were losing the Medicare battle as well. And even Romney's vicious new attack ads slamming President Obama for "gutting welfare reform" were quickly and widely repudiated and debunked this week by virtually every single major news organization in the country.

Almost everything in Romney's game plan has failed, as President Obama maintained his lead in the national polls and in key swing states the past week.

But perhaps the most devastating news of the week came from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found Romney would get zero percent — yes zero percent — of the African American vote. That had to hurt Black Republicans Allen West, Ron Christie and newly minted turncoat Artur Davis.

Yes, it was a horrible week for Mitt Romney.

But it's been that way all summer long. Romney spent the first half of the summer defending his decision not to release his personal tax returns and trying to explain how he "retroactively retired" from Bain Capital. Then when he tried to change the subject by traveling overseas, his international tour turned into a gaffe-filled public relations nightmare. He then tried to pull an August "game changer" by making an early announcement of an unexpected running mate, but that too backfired.

So Mitt Romney keeps hoping that the next week, or the next one, will one day jumpstart his flagging campaign. And maybe his hour will finally come at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Even John McCain got a healthy bounce out of his convention four years ago. And after such an incredible string of bad luck, what else could go possibly go wrong for Romney?

Oh, did I mention Hurricane Isaac?


 Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes political commentary for each week.


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Written by Keith Boykin


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