Political Animal


August 27, 2012 12:44 PM The Official Line

By Ed Kilgore

As a veteran message worker is six Democratic National Conventions, I was interested in the Official Surrogate Talking Points being circulated in Tampa, as published by the Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper (who’s now apparently looking for something other than Biden Is Being Dumped speculation to write about).

I understand that these Talking Points are a secondary method of enforcing message discipline. The actual speeches of actual speakers will be ruthlessly dictated, edited and rehearsed by and under the supervision of Mitt’s operatives; not a spontaneous word will be uttered, unless somebody really screws up. No, the Talking Points are aimed more at anyone loosely connected to the convention or the party who might find himself or herself in front of a microphone or keyboard in the course of the convention. And their basic, subliminal instruction is “Don’t Make News Or Even Waves.” You will note that this is the sum total of the positive presentation of the Romney/Ryan agenda for the country:

In contrast to President Obama, we will advance specific polices that Governor Romney and Paul Ryan will implement to grow our economy, help businesses create more jobs and let American families keep more of what they earn.

There’s a lot more about the biographical re-presentation of the nominee:

Governor Romney is uniquely qualified to be president at this critical time in our nation’s history.
o Family, the organizing principle of his life — devoted and loving husband and father
o Business career — Bain and the businesses he saved and jobs he created - adefender of free enterprise
o Public service - Governor of Massachusetts, rescuer of the Olympics
o Faith - integral to his life

And even more about the whizbang technology of the convention:

Unprecedented ways to deliver our message and connect with tens of millions of Americans watching each night on television and countless others participating online:
o The podium/Stage, with its 13 LED screens, will provide maximum flexibility to enhance the program with live-stream videos, social network feeds, and panoramic and collage images. The screens allow the stage to be transformed into a factory floor or a Midwest farm.
o Convention Without Walls will utilize multiple social media platforms in ways no convention has ever before attempted in order to create community, engage with Americans and amplify the themes and messages from the convention.
§ Americans across the country and around the globe (working mothers in the Midwest and soldiers stationed overseas alike) will be able to share in the convention experience - unfiltered, uninterrupted and free of charge.

I’m excited by the prospect of the convention stage being turned into a Midwest farm, aren’t you? And it’s very cool the whole show will be offered “free of charge.”

The one thing that surprises me about these Talking Points is a section on convention expectations that predicts “upward movement in the polls.” I mean, yeah, that’s usually the case, but (a) the exceptional stability of public opinion in this campaign, reflecting an unusually low undecided vote, and (b) the absence of the usual weeklong gap between Republican and Democratic conventions—both make a significant post-convention “bounce” a dubious proposition, even if Americans are wowed by the Romney Story and all the fine stagecraft.

The bigger problem with such Talking Points is that they’ll probably be ignored by a lot of delegates and other self-appointed spox for the party who will want to growl and rant about the Godless Socialist in the White House and his evil plans to disrupt the well-ordered lives of virtuous retirees and loot their savings in order to empower welfare queens and their spawn, the ever-threatening Roving Bands of Youths.

When the convention is over, I may draft some Actual Talking Points that reflect the message that the entire show conveyed. I suspect they won’t focus on the Convention Without Walls or Mitt Romney, Man of Faith.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • exlibra on August 27, 2012 1:07 PM:

    Iím excited by the prospect of the convention stage being turned into a Midwest farm, arenít you? -- Ed Kilgore

    Oh yes, indeedy! Full of turds, with resulting e-coli running around, rampant, mowing everyone down. Can't think of anything more um... appetizing?

  • Anonymous on August 27, 2012 1:15 PM:

    contrast between two men would have been interesting both being family men, devote christians whose faiths are questioned, and technocratic harvard graduates.
    but one with perspective of a business man, the other as a community organizer and law professor/civil right lawyer.

    A year ago, Romney had the most sensible economic plan among Republican primary candidates. (many ideas are shared by obama, by the way, like free trades.)
    He was only one proposing tax raises by closing loopholes that favor the rich and middle class without lowering the already low rates on income tax.
    Everyone else including Jon Huntsman supported ridiculous 28-25% top rate or regressive flat tax or worse.

    But any of them is more sensible (well, maybe except for Bachmann and Ron Paul)
    than Paul Ryan' proposal of 25% top rate with capital gains of 1%.
    Hermann Cain's 9-9-9 sounds much better by comparison.

    Now that Romney also embraces lowering the current Bush rates like everyone else, he has given up on governing.
    He might win, but what would he be doing with that ridiculous mandate he created for himself, abandoning his own sensible plan for tax reform and health care reform based on individual mandate after abandoning his stance on pretty much everything else before this year?

    But I'm sure only thing convention talks about is how bad Obama economy is and they will try to make Romney more likable through not how intelligent he actually can be but how he is severely conservative, hating immigrants and other people who aren't really American enough.

  • R on August 27, 2012 1:17 PM:

    Will it be a Midwest farm in the middle of a drought in record heat, getting no federal aid because Republicans believe in small government? Oh, wait -- the farmer will actually be a corporation. Owned by white males. Never mind.

  • hells littlest angel on August 27, 2012 1:18 PM:

    The screens allow the stage to be transformed into a factory floor or a Midwest farm.

    Will the farm's crops be rotting in the field because the pickers self-deported?

  • Solid Sid on August 27, 2012 1:30 PM:

    Every time the Republicans say that one of the reasons Mitt should be President is that he and Ann raised 5 sons. What does that have to do with being President?

    I know that he raising a family value issue, but raising children has nothing to do with being President

  • jjm on August 27, 2012 1:36 PM:

    Typical GOP: all form, no substance.

  • Frank on August 27, 2012 2:00 PM:

    Midwest Farm, eh? There will be an ample supply of bulls--t, no doubt.

  • boatboy_srq on August 27, 2012 2:12 PM:

    @hell's littlest angel - I expect the GOTea will find some young bucks made strong from all those T-bones who can get driven in to the fields by the welfare moms in their Cadillacs to do the picking.



    I'm especially amused at the "Convention Without Walls" line - especially since the Without Walls Church[tm] is in Tampa, and experiencing a particularly rocky time of late as its finances and other dirty laundry are laid bare for the public to see (neither Jim-and-Tammy-Faye-Bakker nor Bishop-Eddie-Long grade slimy but still worth some serious inspection).

  • Snarki, child of Loki on August 27, 2012 2:18 PM:

    Frank: "Midwest Farm, eh? There will be an ample supply of bulls--t, no doubt."

    Anyone that's been around the midwest can tell you what that smell is "it's the smell of MONEY"

  • lou on August 27, 2012 2:28 PM:

    "In contrast to President Obama, we will advance specific polices"

    Could any statement be more diametrically opposite of the truth? The GOP has all kinds of policy details that have actually been proposed or implemented into law that they can frame to their own advantage. In contrast the democrats are left to filling in the blanks of the GOP's very vague policy proposals because the GOP has not been forthcoming with details.

    Has there been a more Orwellian effort to gain power in the US? I'd include the world but I am sure we could find precedent in some totalitarian regime somewhere.

  • thebewilderness on August 27, 2012 2:37 PM:

    Iím excited by the prospect of the convention stage being turned into a Midwest farm, arenít you? -- Ed Kilgore

    Will Willard invite the rest of corporate America's CEOs to join him on stage so we can watch them eat the seed corn?
    I might tune in for that.

  • Irritated on August 27, 2012 3:16 PM:

    Lo', the idealic vision of farms, amber waves of grain, and a happy people voting conservative to Save America.

    The reality is closer to drought-hardened farms, full of rustling brown dead corn, and cows caught in mud where their drinking water used to be.

    Republicans celebrating the imaginary and the fairy tale.

  • RaflW on August 27, 2012 3:29 PM:

    Faith - integral to his life

    How can anyone who lies so effortlessly, so freely, and in so many different directions be credited with having an active faith life.

    Sure, he goes to Temple. Sure, he's a bishop and a Stake leader. Sure he has all the trappings of Mormon life.

    Its disgusting to think that anyone can credit this man a faithful life when he lies so publicly, in such character assassination, in such a naked lust for power.

  • Rob M on August 27, 2012 3:54 PM:

    The screens allow the stage to be transformed into a factory floor or a Midwest farm.

    Sounds like they're trying to recreate the Olympics opening ceremony. But without the tribute to the National Health Service.

  • biggerbox on August 27, 2012 4:07 PM:

    Isn't it about time these statements about presenting policy proposals switched out of the future tense? WHEN are they going to advance these specific policies? Romney's been running for months (years?) now, and we still just have outlines, and they don't add up.

  • Doug on August 27, 2012 5:25 PM:

    "The one thing that surprises me about these Talking Points is a section on convention expectations that predicts "upward movment in the polls". Ed Kilgore

    Why do I think that refers to polls done by and for the GOP? You know, the ones that tell R/R that, while their base, aka rightwing nutjobs, IS fired up, they can't count on all those other Republican-leaning voters. THOSE, I believe, are what that remark refers to.
    I can hear Senator Claghorn now: "We're aiming at the ones that AREN'T cracked, boy. Insane that is..."