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March 1, 2015

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Obama campaign tries to paint Mitt Romney as a Don Draper throwback

The Draperizing of Mitt Romney is under way.

He may not drink or cheat, and he lacks the fictional ad-maker’s charisma, but Democrats, despite the potential perils of such a strategy, remain determined to paint Romney as a throwback to the “Mad Men” era — a hopelessly retro figure who, on policy and in his personal life, is living in the past.

President Barack Obama has noted the presumptive GOP nominee uses archaic turns of phrase such as “marvelous” and warned in an email to donors Thursday that his rival would usher in “a social agenda from the 1950s.”

The president’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, has gone further, quipping that the former Massachusetts governor “must watch ‘Mad Men’ and think it’s the evening news” while jabbing that Romney’s views are out of a time when “bosses could dictate on women’s health.”

Democrats unaffiliated with Obama’s campaign are upping the ante, raising questions about just how much a stay-at-home mother like Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, can relate to modern women — an explosive argument that came back to singe the president’s team in recent days.

Even a Romney ally and prospective vice presidential choice, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, managed to underscore the Democratic line of attack at a meeting with about two dozen editors and reporters in New York last week, saying: “He reminds me of a lot of people I grew up with, a lot of people I know, who have that Midwest earnestness. He’s kind of a throwback to the ’50s”

As it relates to the role of women’s rights and role in the 21st-century home, placing Romney in the wayback machine is a promising line of attack at a time when he is frantically trying to overcome a massive gender gap.

But the attempt to do the political equivalent of a Turner Classic in reverse — turn a candidate’s color biography back to black-and-white — also carries significant risk. Democrats were reminded of the tricky calibrations of gender politics Wednesday night when a veteran party insider argued that Romney ought not to get his advice about what women are concerned about from a wife who has “never worked a day in her life.”

Hilary Rosen’s comments were prompted by a Romney speech to the Associated Press, in which he addressed a question about the gender gap he’s facing by referring to his wife — and saying she “reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy and getting good jobs for their kids and for themselves.”

Rosen’s provocation about Ann Romney, a homemaker who helped raise five boys, prompted swift denunciations from Obama’s high command and a furious round of pushback from Team Romney — and head-shaking in private from a range of Democrats who said the episode was a reminder that any attempts to criticize a candidate’s spouse is fraught with peril.

Obama himself was forced to address the Rosen comments with an Ohio television station.

“First of all, there is no tougher job than being a mom,” Obama said. “I’ve watched Michelle, who for most of her career had juggled work and family. But there were times she was on maternity leave, and I promise you that’s work. That was an ill-advised statement by somebody on television.”

“There’s no such thing as a mom who’s not a working mom, so this was an unfortunate incident,” said Virginia Del. Barbara Comstock, a longtime Romney backer. “But it highlights some of the division that we’ve been seeing from the Obama campaign because they don’t want to talk about the fact that the Obama economy isn’t working for women.”

Romney aides echo similar themes in their verbal smackdown of the larger “Don Draper” strategy.

“It’s no surprise, with the worst job creation record in modern history, that President Obama doesn’t want to talk about it. The Obama campaign planned to run on his record and, when that proved futile, they moved to their ‘kill Mitt’ strategy,” campaign spokesman Andrea Saul said. “We’re under no illusions about their intent to smear Mitt Romney to avoid talking about the real issues, and we understand they will do or say anything in an attempt to tear him down.”

Yet, while the Rosen comments may cause Democrats short-term discomfort, some in the party are happy to have a longer conversation on the topic. While none would say so publicly, a number are glad to have such an explosive subject introduced, believing that Romney’s views on reproductive rights and pay equity can be reinforced by reminding female voters where the GOP hopeful is getting his counsel.

Even before the Rosen flap, some prominent activists argued that there are limits to Ann Romney’s ability to appeal to women — despite her acknowledged strengths as a surrogate — based on a potential lack of common experiences.

“I simply have not seen her in any way as an advocate for women’s empowerment in society,” Kim Gandy, the former head of the National Organization for Women, said of Ann Romney before Rosen’s comments. “And since Gov. Romney looks to her to find out what women care about, that does not bode well. I haven’t heard her speaking out about increasing women’s opportunity for higher paid employment, for women in non-traditional occupations, specifically for increasing pay equity for women, closing the pay gap, certainly not on women’s reproductive rights.”

Privately, senior Democrats are even more candid — predicting that the relitigating of the Mommy Wars against the backdrop of a larger Retro Mitt campaign is not a battle that any Republican, and especially not this one, can win.

“She doesn’t connect in any ways with the women that he has a problem with,” a Democratic strategist aligned with Obama said of Ann Romney, alluding to the GOP hopeful’s polling deficit with younger, college-educated women. “She’s as foreign to them as he is. That’s not to disparage anybody who stays home and raises kids. But she’s just not like them.”

A second Democratic strategist acknowledged that the Rosen flap was “messy today” but added: “They’re not going to win on this issue.”

To be fair, Romney’s governmental record, as well as his campaign, generally reflect gender inclusion. His gubernatorial chief of staff and campaign senior adviser, Beth Myers, is female, as are his deputy campaign manager and communications director.

In 2003, Romney’s first year as governor, Massachusetts ranked number one among all states for the highest ratio of women policy leaders appointed by governors, according to a 2004 study by the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society. The suggestion that Romney’s world is cloistered from women is not a fair one.

Where Democrats see an opening is in his language about women — the line about his wife “reporting” to him about the concerns of women — and in whether the “out of touch” label can be expanded to his wife.

What Democrats won’t say, even under the cloak of anonymity, is that the highly charged discussion of Romney and gender opens the door to an even more combustible topic: the candidate’s membership in a church that encourages women to stay at home and handle child-rearing.

Obama and his advisers will never overtly go there, of course.

But in appealing to the female vote, the president has held out his own family’s experience of trying to juggle dual careers with child-rearing — an implicit contrast with his GOP rival.

“We didn’t have the luxury for her not to work,” Obama said recently at a White House forum on women in the workplace, noting that Michelle Obama “gave it her all to balance raising a family and pursuing a career.”

Liberal critics will also attack Romney’s stance on issues important to women — not just his ability to relate to modern families.

“For Mitt Romney to just, in a completely offhand way, say we’re going to get rid of Planned Parenthood as if we could as a country — it’s like it’s coming out of another era,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, alluding to Romney’s March comment that he intended to strip the organization of its federal funding.

Obamaworld makes the case that Romney is out of step not just on such cultural matters but on an array of issues.

“On social, economic and foreign policy, he wants to roll back the clock,” said Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter, noting Romney’s stance on women’s health care, taxes and his Cold War-like rhetoric toward Russia. “He’s laying out a vision of where the country has been — not where it’s going.”

By using such language, Democrats hope to undercut one of Romney’s own favorite message points.

“It undercuts Romney’s whole line of attack — every time he says ‘roll back, repeal, overturn,’ he’s also reinforcing their argument against him, and they can say, ‘There he goes again. It’s all about going backward,’” said veteran Democratic strategist Jonathan Prince. “And it reinforces the best message of Barack Obama — that he’s future-oriented, aspirational and a symbol of progress.”

But it gets more delicate. As one Obama adviser said, “Everything, from the positions to the personal, is about going backward.”

Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress, didn’t discuss Ann Romney but did point to “the personal” of the last two Democratic presidents — habits of elevating their wives on the stump in ways that made clear they were partners.

“The success of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama is that they celebrated the fact that their wives were equal to them and that they had strong careers beforehand, which was a message to a lot of women that they would treat women as equals,” Tanden said. (Clinton and Obama) didn’t just tolerate or acknowledge, but they literally celebrated the facts that their wives were equal in the household and the work sphere.”

By Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman

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  1. Ann Romney is a menopausal woman with grown sons and has health issues. What century was she a stay at home mom? So who does she relate to in this nation? Even Romney and birth control. Our younger generations are having their children and do tubal ligations or vasectomies. His campaign seems to be focusing on the Baby Boomers and older.

  2. Poor women who stay at home to raise their children should be given federal assistance for child care so that they can enter the job market and "have the dignity of work," Mitt Romney said in January, undercutting the sense of extreme umbrage he showed when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen quipped last week that Ann Romney had not "worked a day in her life."

  3. The choices are clear. Vote for Romney and go backwards to the Bush depression, deregulation, privatize Social Security and Medicare, and more unneccessary wars.

    "I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go," Romney said. "Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later."

  4. Don Draper??? Really??? No way... Don Draper's dullest day couldn't be as boring as Romney's most scintillating day!However- Thurston Howell III and clueless Lovey come to mind as '60's icons closest to the cluelessness of Mitt and Ann!

  5. May I please please please have some of the drugs that the 722am poster must be on? They must really mess with the mind....

    Ms. Rosen said what she said. Nobody said what Ms. Rosen said other than Ms. Rosen (who, although she had no reason to, apologized for what she said). Ms. Rosen does not work for the President or for the White House or for the Democratic Party. She works for herself.

    Furthermore, Ms. Rosen's comments were about Mitt Romney. They were not about Ann Romney. She was being critical of Mitt Romney, who said that his wife "reports" to him, as if she were his employee. She was being critical of Mitt Romney, who gets his advice on what is important to the women of the country from his wife, who can't possibly be an ideal consultant on issues of the world, if she's been working at home all these years.

    To write that the President of the United States "rejects stay at home moms" because of something that Ms. Rosen said is ludicrous. About as ludicrous as my saying that Mitt Romney can't spell because of what one of his supporters writes in a local newspaper.

  6. "Ms. Rosen does not work for the President or for the White House or for the Democratic Party. She works for herself."

    Your right. But Ms. Rosen visited the White House reportedly 35 times.

    From WSJ:

    "In a February article about the unwieldily named Democratic National Committee chairman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, The Wall Street Journal noted that "Obama advisers have occasionally told her to 'tone it down,' " an end toward which she agreed "to enlist two seasoned Democratic female pros, Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen, to begin giving her occasional political advice and media training."

  7. Talk about retro. Making Mitt's religious beliefs a reason to be against him is really dialing the clock backwards. I remember JFK and how he was maligned in some quarters because he was a Catholic (although, as it turned out, not such a faithful one). For anyone to go down that road tells more about him or her than it does about Mitt. It exposes not only their bigotry and malevolence, but their lack of understanding as to what most of us stand for and adhere to. This isn't some Arab state. In the USA, most of us respect all religions and even those without any religious preference. We instinctively know it is unfair and unseemly to disparage anothers religious beliefs. As individuals, we have an absolute right to believe in or against whatever we like. To band together in opposition against anyone for their religious beliefs is wrongheaded, in my estimation. There are enough policy issues to takes sides on. As is color, so should religion be left out of the equation. BTW, I am neither Mormon nor Christian.

  8. DON DRAPER THROWBACK??? Who's ... What? .... This author should be fired. Who in the year 2012 uses DON DRAPER THrow what? I'm educated but maybe I'm just not old enough to have alzheimer's which is the age I'd need to be to understand what DON DRAPER THROWBACK is suppose to mean.

  9. Obama paints Romney as Don Draper?

    That's rich coming from a guy who more closely resembles Karl Marx than his self proclaimed idol Abraham Lincoln.

    In fact, if one compares Obamas recent ranks and opines he seems to be operating and almost quoting from the Marxist playbook.

    Don Draper? Compared to Barrack Karl Marx Obama, we should be so lucky.

  10. Don Draper is a fictional TV character and at least 99% of the people in this world have never heard of him because they don't spend their lives watching the TV.

    But is Mitt Romney like Don Draper? If so, then Don Draper's family must have baptized Don's atheist Father-in-Law after death, into Don's religion.

    We know for a fact that "Mitt Romney's family baptized Ann Romney's atheist father into Mormon church a year AFTER his death". This is Ann's father. The poor fool wasn't even allowed to live his life in eternity as an atheist of choice - Mitt and his family has to come along and change his religion after death. That sucks. These people are so manipulative and aggressive they feel they can control the souls of the dead.


    Let me be perfectly clear - a person's religion is their own choice but does anyone want this type of mentality putting their trigger finger on nuclear weapons and commanding the American Military?

    Does anyone want a Baptizer in Chief at the focal point of declaring war, who believes he has more power in the after life, or ANY POWER, then in this one?

    Mitt Romney and his family believe they can control a person's choice after that person has died. Dude, that's real scary.

    Mitt Romney nor any of his family have NEVER entered the US Military. They don't serve America, they enrich themselves from the experience.

    Is that true for Don Draper? If so, how do we know? Mitt doesn't fight for America, he fights for the privileged, his own family and those who make millions while paying lower taxes then those who labor for a living. Mitt Romney believes in a tax system that penalizes people who work by the clock, that they should pay more because they are less important then those who control the money flow - does Don Draper do this? If so, how do we know?

    This article is a joke. It is raving fiction just like Don Draper. The author should get a life, up up and away from the boob tube before commenting on reality.

  11. Does anyone want a President of the United States who feels he can control the souls of the DEAD against their will in this life? If that is the case, Mitt has the ability to send ALL dead soldiers to Heaven if they die fighting for America. Scary.

  12. Hmm, Madmen seems to be on the campaign trail. Perhaps a complaint to the Federal campaign commission would ban them from openly using the show as a campaign device for one side or the other.

  13. What I really wish is that people would read and understand what the First Amendment says and does.

    The First Amendment prevents government, and ONLY government, from infringing on "freedom of speech" (unless there's an overriding societal interest in doing so - laws against yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater being the best example).

    The First Amendment does not prevent anyone else (businesses, people, newspapers, clubs, etc.) from infringing on the free speech rights of anybody. Go to work and call your boss a loser to her face. The First Amendment does NOT prevent her from firing you. Be a member of the Mormon church and tell them you're gay. The First Amendment does NOT prevent them from excommunicating you. Write a comment on the Sun's website that does not adhere to the policies of the Sun. The First Amendment does NOT prevent them from removing the comment.

  14. So "Obama sez Romney uses archaic phrases such as "marvelous." Perhaps this is just the way of a genteel and well-manered man. The British use it all the time, and we got out language from them. I think it is a rather impolite, and undignified, comment coming from Obama.

    But what is WRONG with using the word: "MARVELOUS?" Perhaps Obama has had a lack-luster life - until he became a multi-millionaire, and President. I used to consider Las Vegas as a "marvelous" place, and so did the LV Chamber of Commerce - who portrayed Las Vegas as "marvelous" (while also using similar eloquent phrases for maketing purposes - and it worked).

    I guess some people in Las Vegas believe the "marvelous" is suitable for the tourists who come here, but apparently, others who see this word as "archaic" lack any appreciation for the English Language - - which, by the way, is made up of thousands of eloquent and useful words from French, Italian, German, Spanish, and other languages.

    As for slandering Mitt Romney's religion - that is FOUL PLAY, and the pundits who trash his faith - in Jesus Christ, by the way) - should READ the U.S. Constitution. It says in ARTICLE I.: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibitng the free exercise thereof ...."

    So, if the Congress is not allowed to "DAMM" RELIGION - because it is against the "LAW OF THE LAND" - what makes some people think they can slander MITT ROMNEY and HIS RELIGION - just because he is a Mormon?!

    Further, ARTICLE VI. Sec. 3. of the U.S Constitution states: " religious test shall ever be required as a Qkualification to any Office...."

    So what is to be gained by talking about ANYONE's religion?

    Law abiding citizens - and Oothers who spew their slanderous remarks - GET THEIR FREEDOM FROM THE SAME CONSTITUTION that prohibits such abuse toward candidates for public office. It is NOT a matter of free speech; it IS a matter of slandering a candidate that will (potentially) be elected - under the RULES of the U.S. Constitution. THAT is not subject to interpretation.

    While we are discussing Mormons, do you know that SENATOR HARRY REID (of Nevada) IS A MORMON? And Reid has been in the U.S. SENATE for more than 30 years. Where is the outcry about Reid and his faith? I guess that because Reid is a DEMOCRAT, the press will not slander his faith.

    And, there are 20+ MORMONS serving in the U.S. CONGRESS.

    So, I suggest that this line of discontent be DROPPED, before someone reminds the nation - in a similar, "UNFAIR" and disrespectiful manner - that BARRACK H. OBAMA is an ISLAMIC MUSLIM (aka a self-avowed Christian).

    So, people with evil in their minds want to start a "verbal war" - which will take place on the "stage" of a national election campaign for president - keep it up, and this topic of religion will serve to demonstrate that Democrats could care less about the Constitution, the Law-of-the-Land, OR the citizens of the United States.