Steve Deace

Barack Obama may have just had his “etch-a-sketch” moment.

Last week, the Romney campaign was rightfully chastised after a top advisor essentially said when they’re done pandering to conservatives to win the Republican presidential nomination, they’ll just shake things up like one would an etch-a-sketch and come up with a whole new batch of folks to pander to in the general.

That comment is sure to become very familiar to the American people if indeed Romney is the GOP nominee, sort of like when John Kerry – aka Romney’s alter ego – was branded as the guy who “was for it before he was against it” in 2004.

Not to be outdone, however, President Obama has also now stepped in it—and provided his Republican opponent plenty of ammunition in the process.

According to CNN: In a private conversation about the planned U.S.-led NATO missile defense system in Europe, President Barack Obama asked outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for space on the issue. "This is my last election," Obama told Medvedev. "After my election I have more flexibility."

"I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir," Medvedev said, referring to incoming President Vladimir Putin.

Translation: Obama is essentially saying as soon as he’s no longer tied down by that pesky will of the people thing, he’ll just do what he wants to do when the will of the people can’t touch him.

Obama is fortunate he committed this gaffe – defined as when a politician or one of his top aides opens his mouth and speaks the unvarnished truth for a change – at a time the GOP does not have a nominee going one-on-one with him to make use of this, as well as the fact the media is largely distracted this week by the Obamneycare hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court. Otherwise this could be just as damaging as the “etch-a-sketch” comment was to the Romney campaign.

The “etch-a-sketch” comment reinforces the very valid criticism the malleable Romney is a RINO of no real conviction, so he will say anything to anyone to get elected. Similarly, Obama’s comments about having “more flexibility” after the election reinforces a narrative of his candidacy his campaign would rather not see perpetuated.

Many Americans are correctly concerned about the hard left direction Obama has already taken the country over their objections. They are thinking that if this is what Obama is like when he faces re-election, what will he be like after he doesn’t? If he’s willing to go this far when he faces the scrutiny of the voters, how far will he go when he no longer does?

To these voters, (and there are lots of them if you were paying attention to the last midterm election), Obama’s flippant off-mic gaffe with the Russian figurehead is a chilling reminder that no matter how likeable the president seems to be, he is still the hard left ideologue they tried to send a message to in 2010. And this gaffe gives them the impression either that message wasn’t received, or was just ignored entirely.

This is the sort of comment that can really help a candidate like Romney in a general election. It takes the focus off the fact that lots of voters (including lots of Republicans) have serious misgivings about Romney, and it puts the focus back on Obama.

For example, if I were running Romney’s general election campaign (and I shudder even just typing those words), I would base my entire campaign strategy on the premise of this Obama gaffe. I would first go back to my skeptical conservative base and tell them this:

“You may not like me. You may not want me. But look how far left this guy has governed when he had to worry about re-election. Imagine what he and his minions will do when they don’t. Imagine agencies like the EPA, and appointments like Eric Holder running even more roughshod over your liberties without the fear of facing the voters ever again?”

Even for a Romney critic like me that is a potent argument.

To independents that have doubts about Obama, I would make a similar case but tether the message to their tastes:

“I’m not a right-winger. I’m a businessman who simply believes you do what works. This president, unlike Bill Clinton when he had a Republican Congress, has been unrelenting in advancing his ultra-liberal agenda, even to the point of ignoring your concerns. And he’s already making plans for how much further he’ll go if you give him another four years. Are you willing to take that chance?”

Frankly, this may be the only valid basis for a person of sincere moral conviction to justify voting for Romney that I can come up with. Furthermore, since incumbent presidents of have won 69% of the re-election campaigns in American history, this is probably Romney’s only shot to win a general election barring the United States becoming Greece in the next eight months—and the president played right into it. He’s lucky it’s only March and most of America has yet to pay attention.

Given the lack of voter enthusiasm for either Romney or Obama, and their combined resources, a battle between the two this fall could easily be the most expensive negative campaign in American history. Many media outlets have lost a lot of their advertising revenue in the recession, so a battle between two unpopular politicians with a war chest at their disposal to tear down one another is a media buyer’s dream.

With that war chest, you can trust Romney to exploit these sorts of gaffes by Obama in ways John McCain was too sanctimonious to do so four years ago. Romney doesn’t fancy himself some larger than life maverick that is above the partisan fray. Unlike McCain, he suffers from no delusions of grandeur in that department. He knows he’s a pandering, hack opportunist politician who will lie every lie and flip any flop to win—and he’s made his peace with it. He will put the boot to Obama’s throat if he has to, not man-hug him like McCain. Romney has no legacy to protect, only power to acquire.

Romney will do whatever it takes to win, as will Obama.

Boy, howdy! Won’t that be an inspiring campaign between two desperate candidates the majority of Americans don’t want, no real substantive differences between the two philosophically, and each with enough money to remind us of that in 30-and-60-second increments every commercial break.


Steve Deace

Steve Deace's nationally-syndicated radio show airs coast-to-coast each weeknight from 9-Midnight eastern, including many of the Salem Radio Network's top conservative talk stations in markets like New York City, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Minneapolis. His radio program has been featured in major media such as Fox News, CBS News, ABC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, The Weekly Standard, and National Review among others. In 2013 he wrote the second-most shared column of the year for USA Today, defending "Duck Dynasty" and traditional American values. In addition to being a contributor for Town Hall.com, Deace is also a columnist for The Washington Times. He is also the author of the new book Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again, which includes a foreword by David Limbaugh and is endorsed by a who's who of conservative leaders. You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.