Fear and loathing in Tampa, Florida
I am sitting on the terrace of our hotel in Tampa, wedged between the Sun Trust Bank and a Taco Bell.
All day and all night the huge come hither eyes of Daniel and Martin Hernandez have been following me. They belong to a father and son team of injury lawyers and they stare out of a giant, over-lit billboard that fills my entire view.
The only way to escape the Hernandez eyes is to shut the curtains.
After spending the better part of an hour watching political attack ads on local TV, I am finally inclined to give them a call (813 229 5353). I feel injured by the political bile filling the local airwaves and none of it is aimed at me.
“Newt pretends to have been so close to Ronald Reagan you would think he was Vice President. But Reagan only mentioned him once in his memoirs.” Ouch.
“Mitt is so close Obama that he sounds like his Vice President!” ouch again.
They run these ads back to back, round the clock. I yearn for shampoo ads.
In an expensive media market like Tampa or indeed the rest of Florida they cost millions. But they work. That’s why campaign strategists throw precious dollars on them.
Mitt has outspent Newt by five to one in this state, just as he did in Iowa. He crushed Newt there. He is expected to crush him here.
Money, or the ability to make it, is the key to Mitt’s electoral message. Money and the determination of a death march have been the lifeblood of his bid for the White House. It certainly isn’t natural rhetorical ability or charisma. Mitt is like campaign mulch.
Watching him speak is to experience a mild anaesthetic. It doesn’t knock you out completely, but it does dull the senses and reminds of the last time I had my fillings done.
This both fails to channel the anger so prevalent amongst white Republican men and stops short of lighting anyone’s fire. Mitt’s campaign has the magnetic force of cash and inevitability. But this is a year in which even stalwart Republicans are bashing Wall Street and recognising that the American Dream is only realised by a slither of the country’s rich.
President Obama has made the wealth gap the centre piece of his campaign. His rhetoric is all about the 1 percent versus the 99 percent, even though he will likely rake in campaign donations from wealthy bankers.
2008 was about hope and change. 2012 will be all fear and loathing.
As they might say in London: “Mitt, mind the gap.”