Does the guy on the left look familiar? That's radical TV preacher Pat Robertson.
Remember when Mitt Romney said the economy was the only issue that matters in the presidential race? When he wouldn't get distracted by trivia and would instead remained focused solely on jobs and economic growth?
Well, forget it. Team Romney decided that approach just wasn't going to get him elected. It's why, in recent weeks, we've seen the Republican nominee embrace the welfare lie and contraception access as important elements of his campaign.
Over the weekend, Businessman Mitt Romney further transformed into Culture Warrior Mitt Romney, using the Pledge of Allegiance as some kind of political weapon and obliquely embracing a strange right-wing conspiracy theory at a rally in Virginia.
At a Saturday afternoon rally [in Virginia Beach], Mr. Romney did not just recite the Pledge of Allegiance; he metaphorically wrapped his stump speech in it, using each line of the pledge to attack President Obama.
"The promises that were made in that pledge are promises I plan on keeping if I am president, and I've kept them so far in my life," Mr. Romney said, standing among old airplanes in a hangar at the Military Aviation Museum here. "That pledge says 'under God.' I will not take 'God' out of the name of our platform. I will not take 'God' off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart. We're a nation bestowed by God."
Mr. Romney was referring to a kerfuffle during the Democratic National Convention, when Mr. Obama's party scrambled to amend its platform to include a reference to God, giving Republicans a chance to portray the party as out of touch with family values. But Mr. Obama has never suggested taking "God" off the nation's coins, as Mr. Romney's remarks also seemed to imply.
There's been a fringe argument making the rounds that Obama is trying to take "In God We Trust" off U.S. currency. It has no basis whatsoever in reality, but Romney, or at least those who write his speeches, appear to be aware of the nonsense. As for the Democratic platform, Obama didn't take the word "God" out of the party's document; Obama actually put it back in.
Romney delivered the remarks, incidentally, just a few feet from radical TV preacher Pat Roberson -- a man who, among other things, blamed the 9/11 attacks on Americans.
What's more, Romney's faith-based pandering came on the heels of his running mate, Paul Ryan, arguing that government-sponsored religion in public schools is an issue left to the "the states" -- a position sharply at odds with seven decades' worth of Supreme Court rulings.
But what matters most is the bigger picture. Romney thought the unemployment rate would make him president. Now, in desperation, he wants to talk about "In God We Trust" on our coins and changes to welfare law that never actually happened in reality.
Remember, this isn't an example of a candidate going off-message; this is an example of a candidate deliberately abandoning a message and going in a new direction.
The strategic shift in the campaign message that has been unfolding in recent weeks reflects a conclusion among Mr. Romney's advisers that disappointment with Mr. Obama's economic stewardship is not sufficient to propel Mr. Romney to victory on its own.
Republican strategists said that many middle-class voters had proved reluctant to give up entirely on Mr. Obama, and that they still needed to be convinced that Mr. Romney would look out for their interests.... Mr. Romney's chances hinge to a large degree on running up his advantage among white voters in swing states who show deep strains of opposition to Mr. Obama but do not yet trust Mr. Romney to look out for their interests, Republican strategists say.
I'm reluctant to use the word "flailing" because the race remains very close, but for over a year, Mitt Romney has invested time and energy in telling Americans he's a competent, corporate turn-around artist who'll create jobs. Over the weekend, he was reduced to, "I will not take 'God' off our coins."
It seems as if the guy no longer knows what he wants to say to the nation, so if he keeps coming with new lines, maybe one of them will eventually resonate. I'm not a campaign strategist, but it seems to me the time for this kind of message experimentation was mid-September 2011, not mid-September 2012.