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Mitt Romney repudiates idea of using Jeremiah Wright against Obama

Mitt Romney spoke out Thursday after The New York Times reported on a plan to use the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's 'black liberation theology' – and his role as Obama's former pastor – to go after the president.

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The new world of unlimited spending in support of political campaigns, as sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 2010, has opened the door to increased involvement in politics by wealthy benefactors like Ricketts (whose family owns the Chicago Cubs). He and his super PAC are fresh off an upset victory Tuesday in the Senate GOP primary in Nebraska, in which an underfunded state legislator named Deb Fischer defeated both the Republican establishment and tea party favorites with the help of Ricketts-funded ads.

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The Wright proposal would have involved running TV ads around the Democratic National Convention in early September in Charlotte, N.C. The team of strategists presenting the proposal includes former advisers to one-time presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, including adman Fred Davis, according to the Times.

The strategists anticipated charges of race-baiting, and so their plan included “hiring as a spokesman an ‘extremely literate conservative African-American’ who can argue that Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a ‘metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln,’ ” the Times reported.

By law, a super PAC is barred from coordinating its activities with the campaign it supports, but that didn’t prevent Romney from making his views clear through the media Thursday. Other Republicans voiced opposition to the plan.

“This has the potential to be a recipe for disaster,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who worked for the McCain campaign in 2008. “There could be a significant backlash, and that’s not what Romney needs in this tight race.”

The people who might listen to a racially charged argument against Obama are already not voting for him, while independent swing voters could be turned off.

The argument for leaving race out of presidential politics has long been articulated, including by black conservatives. One, author Shelby Steele, made the case a year ago in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal entitled, “Obama’s Unspoken Reelection Edge.”

Mr. Steele argued that Obama’s race gives him a “cultural charisma” that most Republicans cannot have, and that the way to defeat Obama electorally is to go after his performance in office, not his identity.

“There have really always been two Barack Obamas: the mortal man and the cultural icon,” Mr. Steele wrote. “If the actual man is distinctly ordinary, even a little flat and humorless, the cultural icon is quite extraordinary. The problem for Republicans is that they must run against both the man and the myth. In 2008, few knew the man and Republicans were walloped by the myth. Today the man is much clearer, and yet the myth remains compelling.”

Anyone who consults with Steele is likely to advised to steer clear of Jeremiah Wright. It would only enhance the myth.


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