September 19, 2012 6:41 pm

Memo to Mitt: the 47 per cent solution

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There are a number of positives to be taken from the Republican candidate’s gaffe

A film of Mitt Romney speaking at a private dinner caught him dismissing 47 per cent of voters as Obama supporters who pay no income tax.

From: Strategic Comms Team
To: Governor Romney

Sir, you asked for a proactive communications strategy on the“47 per cent” video.

1: You are the 53 per cent. Let’s make a virtue of this. You were the candidate with the honesty and integrity to tell it like it is – that these 47 per cent are bleeding Sheldon Adelson dry. What is more you have created a highly desirable elite group with space for all your voters. From here on in, every rally should start with chants of “We are the 53 per cent”. We’ve tested this slogan with focus groups and it is already proving far more popular than the “we are the 1 per cent” that we trialled during the Occupy Wall Street protests. Early estimates suggest that it could be as much as 53 times more popular.

2: Shave the 47. With smart messaging we can whittle the number who suspect they are in the 47 per cent down to about 40 per cent thereby offering space for up to 60 per cent in the “we are the 53 per cent” club. We will issue briefings, exempting those natural supporters – the elderly, working families, whites – who might feel alienated from your campaign. We will also illicitly record you at future events, where you will start by making clear you attach no stigma to those who pay no tax and that, in many ways, they are people after your own heart. We will release the video on YouTube. You should be able to spot our cameraman in one of the empty chairs on Mr Eastwood’s table.

3: Never apologise, only explain. While resolutely standing your ground and not doing anything which could be construed as apologising you should offer an apologetic clarification. We suggest: “When I said I didn’t care about the 47 per cent I was only talking about the period of the campaign. As your president I would govern for all Americans, not just the admirable, hard-working wealth creators, but also the undeserving, belly-crawling leeches. As your president I will be working actively to ensure you become a better human being, unless of course, I am forced to let you go.”

Banx illustration

4: Rich is OK. We need to show the compassionate side of your wealth. The other side has worked hard to paint you as a heartless millionaire. We are preparing a file on all the domestic staff you have employed in recent years showing the role you have played in employing the 47 per cent. A quick survey of your homes suggests that but for the employment opportunities offered by you and your family, that number might actually be 48 per cent. Perhaps, we could announce that you and your sons are taking on a few more. I know, sir, that many of them are not up the standards you usually demand in staff, but some are very good with horses and you can always outsource their roles to Bangladesh after the election if things don’t work out.

5: Look back in languor. The 53 per centers aren’t just about taxes. They remember when things were better; when America was stronger; government was smaller, the enemy was communism and prime minister Churchill was flying in for summits. This man was our greatest ally but we haven’t even invited him here for decades. If you are president, your first act on your first day – straight after branding China a currency manipulator and flying to Jerusalem – will be to invite Prime Minister Churchill to the White House. This is what the 53 per cent demand. You are the 53 per cent and all those who join with you will also all be 6ft 1 ins with great hair and a great wife who is home, right now, cooking pie.

6: The Mitt Burns strategy. An alternative and more radical approach. We believe this may have opened an exciting opportunity to build you up in the public mind as the living embodiment of everybody’s favourite plutocrat, Mr Burns from The Simpsons. He’s not just your favourite character, sir; everyone loves this popular wealth creator from that splendid Fox show. Mr Burns embodies the get-ahead spirit and trickle-down philosophy we so admire. We want you be more like him. Obviously, you lack physical similarities but there are some things we could do to underpin the message. For example, would you be willing to try shouting “Ryan, release the hounds” every time you are accosted by a poor voter? This might also work as a killer line in the presidential debates. We also advise ostentatiously washing your hands each time you are forced to greet someone on welfare.

It is a risky approach but the potential rewards are high and it should prove popular with the base.

robert.shrimsley@ft.com

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