Commentary: GOP isn't helping Romney by using far-right talking points

The Kansas City StarSeptember 24, 2012 

If Barack Obama wins re-election he’ll have several thank-you notes to write.

He’ll want to drop Newt Gingrich a letter, thanking him for bringing up GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital, setting the stage for the Democrats’ attack on the issue. Ditto for Rick Santorum, who took health care reform off the table by highlighting Romney’s support for the individual mandate in Massachusetts.

And the president will compose a nice note for Clint Eastwood, thanking him for the empty chair speech in Tampa.

But Obama should save the special stationery for U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, the Missouri U.S. Senate candidate, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Akin’s fumble of the abortion-access question is well-known, of course. Less understood is the impact it had on Romney’s race: In the week before the Republican convention, the nominee had significantly closed the polling gap with Obama and was positioned to take that momentum into the GOP gathering.

Instead, the Akin blow-up dominated headlines across the country.

And Romney’s convention bounce vanished.

Then last week Kobach, along with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, refused to quickly bury a birth-certificate challenge to Obama’s place on the state ballot. Their decision also popped up in newspapers and on blogs across the country, sucking up air, about the time Romney wanted to talk about Obama’s foreign policy record.

There are thousands of up-for-grabs voters in swing states who are aching to cast a ballot for someone other than Barack Obama. But they don’t care about Obama’s birthplace, or the nuances of abortion policy.

They care about paying next month’s light bill. Or buying shoes for the kids. Or the cost of a tank of gas. And every time Republicans detour into conservative conspiracy world — instead of talking about nickels, dimes and dollars — they turn away.

And for what? Voters who think Obama isn’t a citizen are already voting for Romney.

It’s an iron law of presidential politics that nominees must move to the middle after their conventions. Yet, with less than two months to go before the election, some Republicans seem hell-bent on pushing Romney into the far right-wing fringe.

The GOP’s answer is to blame the media. But reporters didn’t keep the birth issue alive, Kobach did. Akin’s brain-freeze on a fundamental abortion question isn’t the media’s fault, it’s Akin’s.

And the mainstream media didn’t put an empty chair on the convention stage. Eastwood did that.

Voters in the real world have more tangible concerns on their minds.

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