Think, for a moment, of Mitt Romney's worst campaign lies thus far as one of those mascot races you'd see at a major-league ballpark in places like Milwaukee or Washington. They're all tall, they stumble and wobble, but somehow they move quicker than you'd anticipate by just looking at them. Two of the worst lies center on President Obama and welfare reform, and the new one about Medicare which Romney is using now to shield his new running mate from even harsher criticism. (It's an attack Paul Ryan himself continued today in my native Ohio, in jaw-dropping fashion.)
But for my money, the worst lie Romney has told during this general campaign may very well be the one concerning the Obama campaign's early-voting lawsuit in that same state of Ohio. The Obama folks want to ensure that a new voting law which would cut the early-voting period by three days, except for those in the military, whether local or stationed abroad. To be clear, that means that everyone would have the same time to vote, regardless of service. Fitting for a constitutional right, yes? Well, a little more than a week ago, Romney used those military voters as political fodder, claiming instead that the President's campaign sought to restrict the rights of military voters.
To borrow from Shakespeare, that's a certain text.
Romney's assertion was pure, unadulterated bollocks. Still, the lie lived in the news for a few days, and probably still does in the mind of many an Ohio voter. (Now it's been downgraded simply to Controversial Election Issue™.) Another lie out of my home state these days is similar to the one I outlined earlier today: that Ohioans need protection from the political poltergeist that is voter fraud. And as it is next door in Pennsylvania, Republicans in charge are using voter fraud as the curtain behind which they are hiding (not so well) their intention to game the system for Romney.
Thing is, in doing just that, Republican county officials throughout the Buckeye State have been less than slick. From ThinkProgress on Friday:
Ohio has introduced a new tactic in their broader attempts to make it even harder for Democratic voters to get to the polls this year. Early voting stations in Ohio’s heavily Democratic counties will only be open between 8 am and 5 pm, while Republican counties have expanded their hours to allow voting on nights and weekends.
So for instance, if you live in Cuyahoga County (see above), where I was born and raised, no extended early-voting hours for you. Fewer hours to vote, no matter how you cut it, means fewer rights to vote. And make no mistake: this wasn't about something as specific as local budget issues, or the lack of poll workers. It was pure politics. According to the New York Times' scathing Tuesday editorial, the Ohio Secretary of State, Republican Jon Husted, broke any ties amongst the four-member county election boards in counties likely to favor President Obama in November, eliminating the extended hours by fiat.
Under heavy protest, that fiat was modified today. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says he will order all county boards of election to keep the same early voting hours for the November election.
Husted said he will direct boards of election to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday -- but not weekends -- during the first three weeks of early voting, which begins Oct. 2. For the last two weeks, the hours will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday though Friday.
So let's recap: early voting is still banned three days before the election, and on weekends -- but at least Husted has been shamed into taking this step to make sure the playing field is level for everyone. Perhaps he'll be shamed into going even further. But this and Pennsylvania bring up what, to me, is the eternal question about Republican politics.
The way Republicans tell it, their ideas are so solid, so convincing, and have a proven track record of success. So why is any of this necesssary? If you're already set up to win, why are you changing the rules of the game?