Commentary Magazine


Does OWS Nullify “Tea Party” as Election Attack?

This new ad from Priorities USA Action, an Obama PAC, is a helpful preview of the kind of attacks Mitt Romney can look forward to during the general election, if he ends up securing the nomination:

The Obama PAC ad shuffles through three basic Romney attacks:

  1. The Tea Party: the ad shows a clip of Romney hesitating before saying “I’m for the Tea Party.” Then it cuts to a video of Tea Partiers marching angrily with signs.
  2. Job Creation: the ad calls out Romney for the layoffs he oversaw during his time at Bain Capitol, and the fact that Massachusetts rated very low for job creation when he was running the state.
  3. Class warfare: there are clips of Romney arguing that “corporations are people” and allegations that he receives support from “Wall Street.”

The job creation and class warfare criticism are predictable. But the fact that the Obama PAC seems to be highlighting Romney’s hesitation on the Tea Party is interesting. It makes you wonder whether the Obama campaign is planning to use this as a wedge issue to force Romney into taking a clearer stance on the Tea Party – either back away from it, or embrace it more strongly.

The Republican base is already suspicious of Romney, so if he seems to be distancing himself from the Tea Party it could really hurt him with conservatives. On the other hand, if Romney aligns himself with the Tea Party, the Obama campaign could use that as a way to portray him as “extreme” and out of touch with the American public.

It would be an interesting tactic, but is it neutralized now that Obama and the Democratic Party have publicly declared their support for Occupy Wall Street? Tea Party rallies look like economics seminars at the Brookings Institute when compared to the violent chaos at OWS protests. With Occupy activists dissolving into mob violence, it’s going to be hard to argue that supporting the Tea Party is “extreme” but supporting OWS isn’t. If anything, the Occupiers are making the Tea Partiers look exceptionally calm and rational.