The racially offensive remark by an unnamed adviser to Republican Mitt Romney--if the painfully thin Daily Telegraph story is to be believed--is likely to be described as the injection of race, ethnicity, and nationality in what has been a color-blind campaign.
"We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special," the adviser reportedly said of Romney, who arrived in London today. "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have.''
Romney was born and raised in Michigan. Obama's story is far more complicated. His mother was white and was born in Kansas. His father came from Kenya. Obama was born in Hawaii and spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. He is Christian, but crazy rumors persist that he is Muslim with ties to terrorists. All of this allows the president to be easily characterized as different, exotic, less American, and more foreign. As "other.'' And Romney and his supporters have not shied from those types of descriptions.
Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu told reporters in a recent call arranged by the Romney campaign that "I wish this president would learn how to be an American.'' Sununu later walked back his remarks, saying, "The president has to learn the American formula for creating business."
Romney himself said of Obama's approach to the economy in a speech last week in Pittsburgh: "His course is extraordinarily foreign.'' He has repeatedly said that Obama "doesn't understand America.''
Romney and his team are certainly entitled to make robust criticisms of the president and his policies. There is a legitimate debate in this campaign over the role of the federal government and what kind of country we want to live in. Constant references to "America,'' a word laced with images of patriotism and amber waves of grain, are nothing new to the campaign trail, where candidates are trying desperately to connect with voters.
But in this campaign, these criticisms are not made in a vacuum free of the politics of race and identity. It would be far more enlightening for Obama's critics to say exactly what they mean instead of speaking in code.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
Romney: ‘Many’ Weapons Used in Aurora Shooting Were ‘Illegal’
[National Journal, 7/25/12] Romney said on Wednesday that many of the weapons used in Friday’s fatal mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater were illegal — but several news outlets have reported that the guns used in the attacks were obtained legally.
Romney Campaign Disputes 'Anglo-Saxon Heritage' Remark
[National Journal, 7/25/12] Mitt Romney’s campaign is working to distance itself from a remark, reported in a British newspaper, from an anonymous Romney adviser that the Republican challenger has a better grasp of the U.S.-Great Britain relationship. “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have,’’ the adviser is quoted as saying.
Romney Met Bain Partners After Exit
[Associated Press, 7/25/12] Romney has said he had no active role in Bain Capital after he exited in 1999 to take over Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics. But sources close to Bain and Romney during the 1999 to 2001 period say he stayed in regular contact with his partners during that period.
Debate Format, Dates Announced
[National Journal, 7/25/12] The first match-up between Obama and Romney will be on domestic policy, and will take place on Oct. 3 at the University of Denver. The final debate, on foreign policy, will take place on Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton.
Romney Overseas Trip to Court Voters Living Abroad
[USA Today, 7/25/12] Jewish voters could make all the difference in Florida and some Midwestern swing states, and Romney's carefully calculated trip through Europe and Israel could be geared toward wooing those abroad and those back at home. But a new report reveals that overseas voting systems aren't as strong as candidates looking for those votes might hope.
Details of Presidential Debates Are Released
[The New York Times, 7/25/12] The three presidential debates will be held in October, with one debate on foreign policy and another focused on domestic policy, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced today. There’s also a town hall and a vice-presidential debate on the schedule.
Obama Campaign Still Explaining Small-Business Remark
[National Journal, 7/25/12] Obama’s senior campaign strategist, David Axelrod, defended Obama after the president rather inartfully seemed to dismiss the hard work and ingenuity of small-business owners in Roanoke, Va., a few weeks ago. So why is the president’s comment still an issue?
Poll Reveals Campaign Attacks Negatively Affecting Both Candidates
[National Journal, 7/24/12] A new poll out on Tuesday reveals that while Obama still has a slim edge in a head-to-head matchup against Romney, openings remain--most notably on the economy and, surprisingly, China--for Romney to get ahead.
Obama Tax Plan on the Trail: Part of the Reelection Strategy
[National Journal, 7/25/12] Obama has played up his tax plan on the campaign trail for weeks, using it to draw a contrast between himself and Romney.
Romney Blasts Security Leaks as a Betrayal
[New York Times, 7/24/12] Romney slammed Obama at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention for intelligence leaks that amounted to a "betrayal" of America, attempting to frame the president as a weak leader who has failed to stand up to adversaries and for allies.
Why Romney Is Going After Obama’s Leaky White House
[BuzzFeed, 7/24/12] Foreign policy is one of Obama's greatest strengths this election season, but Romney seems to think he has found a weak spot in that armor with respect to the leaks coming out of the White House. He'll be pressing the issue until, if things work out for his campaign, the White House buckles.
Talk About Candidates Tapers Off After Colorado Massacre
[National Journal, 7/25/12] A National Journal/Keller Fay Group project found that in the days following the mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater, conversations about both presidential candidates tapered off. Overall though, results show a greater percentage of Americans have discussed the president than have talked about Romney.
Millionaire Political Donors Club: Where Are the Women?
[ABC News, 7/25/12] Forty percent of people who have given $200 or more to Romney or Obama are women, but women represent only a tiny fraction of mega-donors. Sxiteen percent of women are on boards or officer positions at Fortune 500 companies, which could explain why men are overpowering the mega-donor list.
How Obama and Romney Will Try to Leverage the Olympics
[Daily Beast, 7/25/12] Romney's visit to the Olympics and subsequent travel through Europe and Israel could have the same effect that Obama's trip to Berlin had in 2008--they could offer up an impressive vision of a besuited presidential candidate looking regal on the international stage that could outshine the sitting president back at home.
Romney Could Cash In on Deficit Issues
[The Hill, 7/25/12] Although he hasn't taken it up yet, the deficit could be one issue on which Romney could lead, as polls show it sells in swing states and Romney leads with those who consider it to be an important issue.
Opinion: Romney's Hollow Campaign and Retrograde Party Give Obama an Edge
[L.A. Times, 7/25/12] David Horsey wonders whether Obama should be doing far worse this election season but isn't, simply because Romney's an unappealing candidate and the Republican Party is falling out of favor with Americans.