In Politics the most damaging attack on a candidate is always self-inflicted. Conforming to negative stereotypes of yourself is the most damaging mistake a politician can make. There has been two major examples of this recently. The first was Obama’s ‘You didn’t build that’ gaffe when speaking about small businesses. The second is Todd Akin’s horrible remarks referring to ‘legitimate rape’. What makes these remarks so significant is they are concerning each parties biggest weakness; for the Democratic Party: Small Businesses and for the Republican Party: Women Issues.
‘You didn’t build that’ is the main line of attack with which the Romney Campaign has sought to define Obama. It has caught on like wildfire with many small business owners across America sporting posters and T-shirts saying ‘I Did Build That’. It resonates with many voters because it reinforces the stereotype Democrats are anti-small business and want to tax businesses into oblivion.
Obama’s ‘You didn’t build that’ remark was of course taken out of context. Obama, was in fact, seeking to echo Elizabeth Warren’s immensely popularly statement; ‘when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together’ and that wealthy individuals should pay their fair share towards the good of society. However Obama lacked Warren’s eloquence enabling his words to be twisted, shooting himself in the foot.
The Democratic Party has historically gained more support amongst women than the Republican Party. The Republican Party’s current policies on women; their opposition to Equal Pay for Women and Planned Parenthood as well as the ultrasound requirement for women wanting an abortion in Virginia is the context in which we find Akin’s remarks. Akin’s remarks just reinforce the stereotype that the Republican Party is out-of-touch with the views of mainstream women. Democrats are pushing ‘The Republican’s War On Women’ as their election theme. Thus focusing on an area where they have more support and shifting the news narrative away from the state of the economy.
See this Republican ad attacking Obama on the ‘You didn’t build that’ and this Democratic ad attacking Romney and Ryan on women’s issues. These ads are part of the tradition of reinforcing negative views the public already has about a candidate, the most famous, of course, being LBJ’s ‘Daisy Ad’ (see my post on Negative Campaign ads). It will be interesting to see the impact these attacks will have once voters make their ultimate decision in the voting booth.