Mitt Romney Monday played to his base, as he addressed the Tri-State Tea Party Caucus in Philadelphia, using many of the stock phrases and modes of framing that characterise the Tea Party movement’s playbook. On the day the Senate killed Obama’s Buffett Rule plan to raise taxes on people who make more than $1 million per year, Romney accused the president of presiding over a kind of economic civil war that pits rich against poor.
“I will not do as this president is doing, dividing us at every occasion, attacking one American after the other,” Romney told the crowd, “trying to one scapegoat, trying to find someone who by virtue of attacking them can divert from his failures economically. I will bring America together because I do believe that we are one nation under god.”
Of course this was red meat to a movement that is woefully unpopular among the American public: as ABC reported several days ago, the more people know about the Tea Party, the less they like them. But Mitt had to go to them in an effort to woo the fractured base of the Republican Party, which views Romney with suspicion, if not outright hostility. So of course his red meat drew cheers from the crowd: tea partiers have warned for years that Obama is a socialist or Marxist revolutionary with a plan to convince the poor to blame their problems on the richest. The idea has picked up mainstream Republican support more recently, with establishment figures repeating the most fringe tea party belief with impunity from the news media and the broad swath of GOP voters.
How the larger electorate will view Romney’s overheated rhetoric about tax fairness and income inequality remains to be seen, however. CNN today revealed that 7 in 10 Americans favor the Buffet Bill–so there may be dire electoral consequences for someone, like Romney, who undermines their ideas of economic unfairness.