You have to hand it to the Romney team. They get stagecraft. That’s not to say that other campaigns don’t, but they definitely do. Even the best planned stagecraft can, of course, be disrupted.
Take tonight’s event in Clive, Iowa. Team Romney held the candidate’s final speech on the eve of the Iowa caucuses at a company called Competitive Edge. See what they did there? It’s a promotional product company, but associating its name with the event pushes the theme of electability. The CE building wasn’t intended to host major public events, so parking was at a premium. I ended up parking several blocks down the road outside another local business, whose parking also quickly filled. The impression left by the lack of parking space was that everyone who was anyone would be inside. Competitive Edge owns a sprawling workshop/warehouse space, and though the crowd on hand to hear Romney give his speech didn’t fill the vast acreage of floor space (with maybe 250,000 square feet available, how could they?), Team Romney deployed an ample supply of large banners to fix the crowd into a tight space around the stage. With a massive battery of press cameras opposite the banners, the crowd was set in an intimate round with the candidate at the center. The entire setting looked and felt energetic.
Sen. John Thune warmed up the crowd, emphasizing Romney’s electability. When the candidate himself took the stage, he first introduced his wife Ann and then after a few remarks from her, went into his usual stump speech. Hitting themes of cutting government and making America a great place to do business again, Romney hit his stride. He promised that as president he would cut government to the point that we’ll “have Big Bird with advertisements,” and then the Occupy Wall Street folks started yelling from within the crowd.
Romney begins the clip describing his test for which government programs he would cut — is it worth borrowing from China to pay for? If it’s not, it gets cut. The occupiers who had slipped in decided to disrupt. First they yelled that “Romney belongs to the corporate 1%.” The crowd chanted “Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!” while the occupiers riffed off a few more lines. Then, they yelled that Citizens United isn’t in the Constitution. The Supreme Court voted otherwise.
As you’ll see in the video, Romney allows the back and forth to continue for a bit until a man in the crowd comes up with the one line to which the occupiers had no response at all:
“Go to work!”
The occupiers wanted to create a disturbance, but they ended up unifying the audience and making their target look good. That’s bad stagecraft on their part.
A few minutes later, I saw a camera crew interviewing the lead occupier outside Competitive Edge’s building. He was exactly what you would expect: Young, unkempt, evidently unaccomplished. He told the interviewers that he and his friends were there to get their point of view across to contradict Romney’s “support for all these wars.”
The occupiers’ point of view was obvious enough tonight. They’re children, unable to comprehend or accept that not everyone agrees with them. They go for the heckler’s veto, trying to embarrass and shout down opposition. They tried to disrupt the Romney campaign’s carefully planned stagecraft. But at this event, they were owned by an anonymous man in the crowd.