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Michael Smerconish: Decision 2012

Rev. Jeremiah Wright Speaks At National Press Club

by Michael Smerconish – 5/22/12 -

So the New York Times has published a big story detailing a sophisticated plan that was presented to the conservative owner of the Chicago Cubs seeking $10 Million to fund an anti-Obama campaign.  Among other elements, the plan calls for the resurrection of the Jeremiah Wright issue.  On the same day the plan was published in the Times, the wealthy recipient of the plan said he’d never fund it, and Mitt Romney repudiated the ideas it contained.  At the Obama HQ, they are probably saying “too bad.”

Jeremiah Wright was fair game in 2008 and no one can argue the matter wasn’t fully litigated.  America saw the tapes, heard the audio and paid attention to the (now) president’s explanation delivered in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center.  And I am sure that minds were made up on that issue alone.  But as a political matter, it does not serve Romney well to have a third party raise the matter in negative ads now, in 2012, through an articulate African-American spokesman, which the plan said was preferable.  Whoever would be swayed by the old footage of Rev. Wright is already in the Romney camp.  That base does not require to be stoked.  Wild horses could not keep them from voting.  But that constituency does not hold the cards in the general election.  Independents do.  And a better path to win them over would be to focus on the economy, not Rev. Wright, which will be perceived as arguing over an old issue.  Raising Wright in 2012 is politically dangerous and could result in a backlash.

One result of Citizen’s United is that tons of money is being spent in support or opposition to candidates where the candidates themselves have no say.  It’s not fair to hold Romney accountable for what is done on his behalf at a true arm’s distance, and the same is true with Obama.  But I suspect the public will get confused and assume the candidates themselves called these shots.  Which is probably why Romney wisely disavowed the plan published in the NY Times.  Much to the disappointment of the Obama campaign.