An article by McKay Coppins at BuzzFeed gives a candid look at the recent “storm relief” rally held by the Romney campaign in Ohio.
It was supposed to be another campaign event, but was changed because of Hurricane Sandy into a “rally” in which attendees had to bring a canned good. To put it as a comment on Buzzfeed‘s site did, it was a rally which did a lot of good, but how it was done was “cringe-worthy.”
The adjective “cringe-worthy” is definitely something to remember when reading the article, particularly the part:
The plan was for supporters to bring hurricane relief supplies to the event, and then deliver the bags of canned goods, packages of diapers, and cases of water bottles to the candidate, who would be perched behind a table along with a slew of volunteers and his Ohio right-hand man, Senator Rob Portman. To complete the project and photo-op, Romney would lead his crew in carrying the goods out of the gymnasium and into the Penske rental truck parked outside.
But the last-minute nature of the call for donations left some in the campaign concerned that they would end up with an empty truck. So the night before the event, campaign aides went to a local Wal Mart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned food, and diapers to put on display while they waited for donations to come in, according to one staffer. (The campaign confirmed that it “did donate supplies to the relief effort,” but would not specify how much it spent.)
In the end, over 2,000 people attended and Romney was well-received when he gave a speech about clearing a football field, which was meant to signify how people can get a job done by pulling together. Except for a few minor glitches, one could say his campaign didn’t fall off the tight rope constructed by Hurricane Sandy, i.e. getting a “vote Romney” message out without showing a lack of sensitivity to those stricken by Mother Nature.
However, the idea that this situation was merely a photo op for Romney instead of an event wrought out of genuine concern kept poking it’s way through the carefully constructed event:
. . . even as Romney, clad in blue jeans and rolled-up sleeves, hustled around his area of the gym, shaking hands, thanking supporters, and stacking cases of bottled water on top of each other, signs of stagecraft remained. As supporters lined up to greet the candidate, a young volunteer in a Romney/Ryan t-shirt stood near the tables, his hands cupped around his mouth, shouting, “You need a donation to get in line!”
Empty-handed supporters pled for entrance, with one woman asking, “What if we dropped off our donations up front?”
The volunteer gestured toward a pile of groceries conveniently stacked near the candidate. “Just grab something,” he said.
Two teenage boys retrieved a jar of peanut butter each, and got in line. When it was their turn, they handed their “donations” to Romney. He took them, smiled, and offered an earnest “Thank you.”