The Stage Managed “Relief Effort”

Ken AshfordElection 2012Leave a Comment

It was an awkward question: how does a campaign promise to cancel a political rally then hold it anyway? For Mitt Romney, it was simply a matter of rebranding.

In Ohio, yesterday, the Republican wanted credit for being sensitive to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and canceling a scheduled rally. He also wanted to hold the rally. So the same event was held at the same time, in the same venue, with the same celebrities and same campaign movie, but the rally was called a "storm relief event."

But there was another problem: what if supporters showed up without materials to drop off? Team Romney prepared for that, too — the night before the partisan rally "relief event," campaign aides went to a local Wal Mart and spent $5,000 on "granola bars, canned food, and diapers," which could then be displayed for cameras.

What's more, local voters who wanted to shake Romney's hand were at risk of messing up the photo-op, so they were stage managed, too.

As supporters lined up to greet the candidate, a young volunteer in a Romney/Ryan t-shirt stood near the tables, his hands cupped around his mouth, shouting, "You need a donation to get in line!"

Empty-handed supporters pled for entrance, with one woman asking, "What if we dropped off our donations up front?"

The volunteer gestured toward a pile of groceries conveniently stacked near the candidate. "Just grab something," he said.

Two teenage boys retrieved a jar of peanut butter each, and got in line. When it was their turn, they handed their "donations" to Romney. He took them, smiled, and offered an earnest "Thank you."

It's reminiscent of Paul Ryan's recent stop to an Ohio soup kitchen. The Republican ticket is principally concerned with giving the appearance of assistance.