Mitt Romney did not rush to contradict a woman at a town hall who called for President Obama to be tried for treason. He's hardly the first politician not to rush to the aid of an opponent.
This question arises because at a Romney town hall meeting in Cleveland on Monday, a female supporter told the crowd that Mr. Obama is “operating outside the structure of our Constitution” and should be “tried for treason.”
At the time, Mr. Romney let the comment pass. Later, asked by reporters about the “treason” incident, Romney said that “no, of course” the president should not be tried for that offense.
Too late, too late! Top Democrats ratcheted their umbrage meters up to “stun.”
Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement, “Time after time in this campaign, Mitt Romney has had the opportunity to show that he has the fortitude to stand up to hateful and over-the-line rhetoric and time after time, he has failed to do so.”
Does the Obama team think Romney secretly sympathizes with the call to put their guy in the dock? No, they know better. They’re just maneuvering for a tiny bit of rhetorical advantage in a campaign that’s becoming more personal by the day.
Handling supporters who go over the line isn’t easy, after all. Sure, in the 2008 campaign Sen. John McCain did it pretty well. After a rally supporter called Obama an “Arab” who couldn’t be trusted, Senator McCain took the mike and said, “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man.”
But it’s more common for candidates to look on with a strained smile that says, “I hope that person did not say what I think they just said.”
Even some generally liberal commentators sounded as if they thought the blistering Democratic response seemed a touch ... sensitive.
“It would be nice if we could establish some kind of clear standard for when candidates are and aren’t responsible for the things their supporters say, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, since both campaigns seem to think they profit from jumping on such episodes, perhaps because they’re easy ways to motivate base supporters,” wrote Greg Sargent on his liberal Plum Line Washington Post blog.