Mitt’s Mutt Matters

Impactful issue?
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin advise us that about 46% of Americans self identify as dog people, 12% as cat people, and 28% as both dog and cat people. In all, an overwhelming three-fourths of Americans are down with the dogs.

I share this market segmentation because it may explain why first Newt Gingrich and today Rick Santorum are bringing up the bizarre tale of Mitt Romney reportedly strapping his crated Irish Setter Seamus onto the top of the family vehicle for a lengthy family trip at highway speeds. Reportedly, when Seamus relieved himself mid-trip, due to fear, stress or bursting bowel, Mitt hosed the mutt, and put him back on top.

Grrr, say the dog lovers. Ruff stuff.

Most political consultants will tell you that “Who would I rather have a beer with” really is a relevant political metric. So, is this also a relevant political metric: “Who would I rather have dog sit my little snookems?”

In all seriousness, this will end up costing Governor Romney votes. At best, it makes him look like an oddball, and makes you wonder what other weird ideas lie beneath the hair gelled facade. At worst, it makes him look completely heartless. For a guy struggling mightily to connect with ordinary families, 74% of whom are dog people, this story just can’t be helpful.

Many issue wonks dismiss these kinds of human interest-type controversies as irrelevant. But in an election where the issue positions of the GOP candidates are very similar, and, at this stage, very familiar, these water cooler topics will impact voter opinions on a gut level, both now and in the General Election.

In politics, spouse abuse has long been verboten. It is very difficult for wife beaters to get elected. In this groundbreaking 2012 election, we will soon see whether dog abuse has an impact.

– Loveland

18 thoughts on “Mitt’s Mutt Matters

  1. PM says:

    Ya know, I’m not really a big fan of Mittens, nor would I really look forward to sharing a beer with him (or even a 7-Up, as he is a Mormon, you know). And I am a big dog person, too–got 3 of them (not to mention a cat, but really much more of a dog person). And I would never put my dog on top of the car for a lengthy drive (or even a short drive).

    But still, this incident just doesn’t rise to the level of making me think that Mittens is unqualified for the office. There are other things about him that bother me a hell of a lot more–but even without those other issues, this just isn’t something that i think would disqualify him. At least in my opinion.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        Erik, based on what I know, I’d vote Edwards. Of the three, I’d say Mitt is the least odd, and most able to hold up under the presidential campaign electron microscope. But still, he is coming across as quite odd, and this chapter is particularly bizarre.

      2. Erik says:

        Right, and that’s the unwillingness of Democrats to do serious critical analysis of other Democrats that I was talking about.

      3. PM says:

        Well, I think that Mitt might be the weirdest, but I still would trust him more than Edwards. I’d leave Weiner out of it because i simply feel like i know the least about him.

        Edwards isn’t all that weird, but i definitely don;t trust him. By that i mean that I can understand (empathize?) with some of the things he has done, but he still displayed massively bad judgement. I find it much harder to empathize(understand?) Mitt, but he has clearly never shown the kind of basic failure in judgement that Edwards did, and i find it hard to imagine that he ever would.

        Does that make sense? Am I explaining myself at all well here? Bottom line, I’d much rather spend an evening with Edwards than with Mitt, but I’d trust Mitt more.

        But I have to admit, Obama seems like a much more likeable person than either of them, and i also trust him–more than I trust Mitt (not necessarily because of any particular character flaw in Mitt, but because i just do not think that Mitt has had nearly broad enough experiences of this country and the people. He is too narrow)

      4. Joe Loveland says:

        Re: “Democrats’ unwillingness to do serious critical analysis of other Democrats”

        I’m not sure I understand the point with regard to Wiener and Edwards. This Democrat just conceded that the two Democrats you handpicked did indeed reveal themselves to be strange rangers. And both of them have been rejected by Democratic leaders and voters. And yet you say they weren’t subject to critical analysis?

        I don’t want this Edwards/Wiener sideshow to wash out the original point of the post. What Romney did to his dog away from the cameras gives me the heebie jeebies, and I don’t think I’m alone. And Romney is the one running for President, not Edwards and Wiener. To me, the treatment of old Seamus speaks to the man’s apparently hollow emotional core.

  2. Joe Loveland says:

    With him or at him?

    From Politico:

    1. “Romney is so confident that he’s getting cocky. He’s already putting the dog on the roof of his car.” (“Late Show with David Letterman,” Feb. 7)

    2. “I would say this is an extremely safe position for Romney to take because the odds are very good that no one has ever called Mitt zany in his entire life. Unless it was when he drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the station wagon. (‘Hey, Mister, you got an Irish setter on top of your car. What are you, zany or something?’) Gail Collins, New York Times columnist (Dec. 15)

    3. “They announced the winner of the Westminster Dog Show, and tomorrow the winning dog gets to ride on the roof of Mitt Romney’s car.” (“Late Show with David Letterman,” Feb. 21)

    4. “Please stop barking, Baron. Come on help me out there, buddy. Baron, I’m begging you. You want go back on that roof?” “Saturday Night Live” skit featuring Romney’s new dog, “Baron” (Feb. 11)

    5. “Sad news for Mitt Romney. He drove out of Florida with a live gator strapped to the roof of his car.” (“Late Show with David Letterman,” Feb. 2)

    6. “PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air.” (Romney in 2007)

    7. “To undo the negative publicity Mitt Romney received from tying his dog to the top of a car on a cross-country vacation, Mitt responded by tying the car to the top of his dog.” (“Late Show with David Letterman,” Feb. 7)

    And Letterman top 10 lists:

    “Top ten other movies about Mitt Romney” (“Late Show with David Letterman,” Feb. 21)

    2. Dog On A Hot Car Roof

    “Top ten questions on the application to become a Mitt Romney look-alike” (“Late Show with David Letterman,” Feb. 16)

    2. Can you smile while driving with a dog strapped to the roof of your car?

    And Colbert

    “Look at his energy policy. What is his energy policy? … You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it,” Romney said.

    “That’s right!” Colbert said, incredulously shaking his head. “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it! Because if you put a windmill on top of your car, then where does the dog go? Stupid.”

    1. Erik says:

      I tried to allude to this some weeks ago. You got a dad, Mitt, who was in his 30s, 40s at the time. The family piles in the truckster to go on a trip. Frazzled dad solves his dog transport problem by putting it in the cage on the roof… which is just a stereotypical dorky dad thing to do. And the metaphor is exactly that – Clark Griswold.

      The thing is, Clark Griswold and dorky dads are endearing characters. This isn’t going to harm Mitt.

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        A slight difference: Clark was an intentionally exaggerated figment of a comedy writer’s imagination. Mitt is a real candidate for leader of the free world.

      2. Erik says:

        Right. But what is universal is that every dad dorks it up at some point. This anecdote is one man’s dad dork moment, and it’s not particularly malevolent (except, ya know….. that he’s a Republican). Applied fairly, the dad / dork screen would eliminate all Democrat candidates as well.

        Bill Clinton flew back to Arkansas during the New Hampshire primary in 1992 to sign Ricky Rector’s death warrant. Rector was profoundly mentally handicapped by then, but the execution spectacle served Clinton to demonstrate that as a Democrat he was sufficiently tough on crime.

        Did that prevent you or other Democrats from voting for him Joe?

      3. Joe Loveland says:

        Southern governor demagogues death penalty didn’t please me, but it didn’t surprise me. This surprised me.

        Again, the straw man argument about disqualification. I’m not saying this should disqualify him. Nobody is. I’m saying it is a factor. Policy positions are not the only things that impact elections. This is being discussed in break rooms, probably more than his tax policy.

      4. Erik says:

        What’s your basis in asserting that? You work alone, don’t you? I work in a big office.

        Which is not to say it’s never literally been discussed in a break room. Rather, I merely disagree this story has any legs at all. I’ve never actually seen it discussed except by people who are Asperger’s about politics. And most people are not.

        This anecdote is only capable of moving only a sliver of independents. It’s meaningless.

      5. Joe Loveland says:

        Yes, I see what you mean. Everyone knows that Leno, Letterman, SNL and the like only cater to the highbrow elites, so that’s why they are giving this so much play.

        Look, I’ll grant you, I’m speculating about the interest level in break rooms and among swing voters, as are you. I have no research to back me up, only observations about how I see it playing a prominent role in popular culture. We’ll see.

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    Huffingpost summarizing recent Crategate heat:

    Suddenly all hell is breaking loose around Seamus’ seemingly tortured journey. But why?

    Surely, the New Yorker’s March 12 cover, titled “State by State,” helped a bit. It shows a smiling Romney driving down the road in a red car with Rick Santorum in a doghouse strapped to the roof.

    Perhaps even more telling is that Santorum campaign is starting to feed the flames itself. As the Huffington Post’s Arthur Delaney blogged Sunday, Santorum’s top advisor twice last week reminded voters that “Romney once drove to Canada with the family dog, Seamus, in a crate fastened to the roof of the car.” And Santorum himself, he noted, on Sunday suggested on ABC’s This Week that this dog story could be a matter of character.

    Clearly the public is tuning in. Delaney’s post cornered 5,214 comments in its first seven hours and threw up a poll, asking readers: “Does It Matter That Romney Put His Dog on the Car’s Roof?”

    Over at Political Wire, under a headline “Seamus story dogs Romney,” blogmaster Taegan Goddard linked to a Wall Street Journal article that noted the story had dominated political headlines this month.

    Wrote the Journal, “Seamus the Irish Setter’s ride on the Romney’s station wagon roof is the story that wouldn’t die, even though the dog itself did decades ago.”

    It’s remarkable that the story could smolder for years before bursting into flames. But it also makes sense.

    In the end, Mitt Romney comes across as too distant, too rich and too out-of-touch. This is the reason why a 29-year-old story about a dog with a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day name has him on the ropes. Even if he really does love those grits (and I doubt he does), you’ve got wonder whether he ever loved his dogs — and what that might say about his ability to connect with the American people should he become their president.

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