POLITICS

The Midwestern Moment

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michael Barone

I’ve long said that Newt Gingrich has always had ten of the five best new ideas. I got a chance for a word with him on the floor of the convention last night as he was being led from a chat with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer by his intrepid press secretary R. C. Hammond to an appearance on CBS News. “Did you notice,” Gingrich said (I’m not quoting exactly here), “that Romney got five days of news about how he was born in Michigan?” Mainstream media delighted in spotlighting Romney’s observation, after noting that Ann had been born in Henry Ford Hospital and he in Harper (it’s not a university, as I have seen in some accounts) Hospital, both in Detroit. MSM used this clip to try to associate Romney with the so-called birthers, those who insist or speculate that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Romney has long dissociated himself with this idea, but MSM apparatchiks think that association with birthers is a terrible liability. My own sense is that most ordinary voters don’t care a bit about this issue, and that MSMers use it to fortify the weakening attachment of friends and acquaintances in their milieu. You may be really disappointed in Obama, the argument goes, but those Republicans are weird—Romney is giving a dog whistle to the crazy birthers.

 

Back to Newt. His point was that for five days voters in the Midwest were reminded that Romney was born in Michigan and grew up there. “This is a Midwestern ticket,” he said, with Romney from Michigan and Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Republicans have not fared well in the Midwest—Barack Obama won 97 electoral votes there, John McCain 27. Republicans have not had even one Midwesterner on their national ticket since 1996 (Bob Dole); they have not had a Midwesterner on a winning ticket since 1988 (Dan Quayle). The party was born in the Midwest, or to be more specific in the New England Yankee diaspora counties of the Midwest—which is exactly where Romney and Ryan are from. This year the Midwest is full of target states—Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, maybe Minnesota, with a total of 50 or 60 electoral votes, and the only state that looks solid for Obama is Illinois. So I think Gingrich was on to something.

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