Video killed Romney’s rebranding strategy?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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This election cycle, I’ve largely resisted the urge to talk about Mitt Romney’s flip-flops. This is mostly because they’re boring. By now, of course, everyone knows he was less than 100 percent ideologically consistent. Nobody is outraged by this.

But as we seek to discover why conservatives have largely failed to rally around his candidacy, this topic deserves revisiting. And if Romney should fail to win the nomination (still an unlikely outcome, but one that is becoming more conceivable every day), the media narrative explaining what went wrong will be important.

In writing a postmortem on his candidacy, some observers would surely say he failed to win-over conservatives because of his faith (possibly as an attempt to cast conservative voters as bigots) — or that his awkward and aloof personality (which is a real obstacle) was the real culprit. Others would probably blame the new RNC rules, which made it harder for anyone to quickly capture the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

But what would probably get less attention than it deserves (possibly because it’s old news) are the substantive and legitimate concerns about Romney’s record and evolving ideology. In that regard, my guess is that YouTube has done more to harm Mitt Romney than any of his opponents ever could.

As this video demonstrates, at the age of 55 — Mitt Romney was still averring that he was pro-choice:

The first thing to note is that this is not a young man coming to terms with his philosophy. This is not a youthful indiscretion. Though he looks younger than his age, Mitt Romney just celebrated his 65th birthday. He turned 55 in 2002.

Second — and this is important to understand — is that this video shows a Mitt Romney passionately attempting to persuade people that he is just as pro-choice as his liberal opponent. In so doing, he uses many of the exact same rhetorical devices that he uses today when he attempts to persuade similarly incredulous conservatives that he’s one of them.

In the above video, Romney doesn’t show signs of equivocating. Instead, he forcefully, if condescendingly, insists he “will protect a woman’s right to choose” — just as he forcefully insists he’s pro-life today. This, of course, is problematic.

“Anytime you can use a candidate’s own words against them it makes for good TV and effective messaging,” says Jon Downs, a Republican operative also known as  the man behind the Ron Paul ads. What is more, voters don’t have to wait for TV to play a YouTube clip — they can be emailed, embedded in blog posts, Tweeted! — you name it.

“YouTube is the worst thing to ever happen to the inconsistent politician,” says another top GOP strategist. “Romney’s problem is that there are just so damn many examples of what he said in the past, and what he says now, being polar opposite. Most people think it’s old news that he has changed a lot of his positions, so that’s why this hasn’t sunk him. But it’s also one of the key reasons why he hasn’t been able to close the deal with primary voters.”

Videos such as this (and there are many more) have probably had a much bigger impact — in terms of derailing Mitt Romney’s attempts to rebrand himself — than anyone fully realizes.

Matt K. Lewis