If the name "Kris Kobach" rings a bell (or even if it doesn't), it should: Kobach is the man who helped created regressive and harsh anti-immigration legislation in places like Arizona and Alabama. Also among his titles? Kansas Secretary of State, and until recently, Romney campaign adviser. That's how he was announced in a January 28, 2008 press release from Mitt Romney's earlier presidential campaign announced that Kobach would serve as an "adviser to Governor Romney on border security and immigration reform issues."
The worm has turned, and despite Kobach telling TPM that he's "much more involved" with Romney's campaign in 2012, it seems he's no longer in the inner circle. He's more or less been kicked to the curb -- rhetorically, at least. From Politico's Glenn Thrush:
Over the weekend, I noticed that Kris Kobach, Mitt Romney’s unpaid immigration adviser -- and the inspiration for Romney’s “voluntary deportation” strategy – wasn’t included in a fairly comprehensive Boston Globe rundown of staff, advisers and the kitchen cabinet types. When I asked Boston if Kobach was still an “adviser,” a Romney spokesperson emailed back: “supporter.”
I mean, this is exactly what Romney's communications director said they would do once the general election got rolling: shake that Etch-a-Sketch, and hope that people simply don't recall things like "voluntary deportation" and the fact that he promised to veto a DREAM Act, and is now interested in a DREAM Act (albeit Marco Rubio's watered-down version).
Politico, interestingly enough, published a piece today about this election year being one of the campaign "non-surrogate surrogate." It's a trend piece, no doubt; the same thing could've been written in 2008 after American learned about one Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Still, there's an important point it raises in the wake of last week's outbreak of phony outrage over CNN pundit Hilary Rosen's Ann Romney remark:
Controlling these pseudo-messengers is harder than meets the eye, especially because their comments often draw nods of recognition or even a “Hell, yes!” from a candidate’s base. Push back too hard from campaign headquarters and risk alienating fans. Stay silent or offer a mild tsk-tsk, and your opponent will spend days highlighting the off-key remarks.
Enter rocker Ted Nugent, walking dog-whistle and magnet for false equivalency. Lately, the sexagenarian rocker is more known now for his political views and candidate endorsement than any music he's made, and 2012 is no different. Despite his being pretty much radioactive to anyone who isn't as far-Right as he is, After telling the NRA convention about that "vile, evil, America-hating" Obama administration, there was also this:
”If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
Nugent, for his part, is saying he didn't threaten President Obama, despite having implied that he'd be jailed or killed if there was a re-election and having told the NRA convention folks “to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.” (He later compared himself to a "Black Jew at a Nazi-Klan rally.") So, yeah, the Secret Service now wants to talk to Nugent, and will do so tomorrow.
But as the Politico article noted, it may be more about how the candidate reacts to the non-surrogate surrogate comment than the comment itself. Romney (if not the RNC) distanced himself from Nugent. But can Romney ever really shake that political Etch-a-Sketch, and have us all forget the Nugents, Kobachs -- to say nothing of the hard-Right stances he's taken?
Paul Waldman, writing in the American Prospect, doesn't think so, and uses George W. Bush as comparison:
One of the many differences between Bush and Romney is that conservatives trusted Bush. Even if he presented himself as "a different kind of Republican" (i.e. one who wasn't so cruel when it came to social issues), they knew that he was one of them. There was no doubt in their minds about where Bush stood on most things, and on most things he was with them. With Romney, they'll doubt everything...
Every time President Romney goes to a meeting or a fundraiser, he'll be buttonholed by a conservative Republican who'll tell him that he darn sure better toe the line. That goes for the people around him too.
If that's true, it may not matter whom he surrounds himself with, or how he waters down his rhetoric. Romney will be who we thought he was during the primary, if Republicans have anything to do with it.
Update: Romney had a lot of sound and fury today in Charlotte, offering a "prebuttal" to a speech the President won't give for another four months. Details here.