So Mitt Romney denounced Chicago's striking teachers but didn't mention Rahm Emanuel, the mayor who is on the opposite side of the picket line. It was an interesting move--getting into a local dispute so he can bash the president. Romney not only denounced the teachers but also the Obama administration, saying "the president has chosen his side in this fight." That's not true. Obama has stayed neutral. It is true, as Romney noted, that Vice President Joe Biden has had warm words for the union and general statements of support from some time ago, but that's different than picking a side in this strike.
Instead of falsely charging that the Obama campaign had taken a side, Romney could have engaged in a more subtle ploy--explicitly backing Emanuel. (Romney took aim at the union but never threw an arm around Rahm.) It would have been an elegant jujitsu move allowing Romney to underscore his point—and the one made by Republican governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin—that public-sector unions are demanding, if not destructive. It’s a way of showing one’s bipartisan credentials if you’re aligning yourself not only with Bill Clinton but one of his longtime aides, a mayor who literally cowrote a book on being a New Democrat.
By Monday afternoon, the Romney-Ryan campaign saw the wisdom of the move when Rep. Paul Ryan, the vice presidential candidate, declared: "I've known Rahm Emanuel for years. He's a former colleague of mine. Rahm and I have not agreed on every issue or on a lot of issues, but Mayor Emanuel is right today in saying that this teacher's union strike is unnecessary and wrong. We know that Rahm is not going to support ourcampaign, but on this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel."
With a high murder rate and kids out of school, Emanuel needs a Paul Ryan kiss about as much as Michele Bachmann needs an embrace from Bernie Sanders.
Moving forward you have to wonder whether Romney will keep repeating the GOP slur about Obama engaging in “Chicago-style politics”—whatever that means. (Al Capone with a ballot? David Axelrod with a Tommy Gun? The Daleys with a Super PAC?)
In his effort to cut right and win the Republican nomination, Romney has seemed incapable of showing his more moderate side. He brought universal health care to Massachusetts and rarely mentions it. That it was the template for "Obamacare" is well known. But now is the time for that pivot to the middle.
Weighing in on behalf of a Democratic mayor would probably annoy some Republicans who loathe "Rahmbo" the way Democrats can’t stomach Dick Cheney. But stepping away from his own party to endorse a conservative principle about public-sector unions is a bold move, one that the Romney campaign couldn't quite make until late Monday. It's Paul Ryan's most deft move since his convention speech's memorable jab. "College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms," Ryan said, "staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life." By embracing Mayor Emanuel, Ryan's shown he's got game.