The Etch-A-Sketching begins

Hesitantly, Mitt breaks with his party on equal pay

Topics: War Room,

The Etch-A-Sketching beginsMitt Romney (Credit: AP/Alex Brandon)

As soon as Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid on Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s campaign made it clear that they viewed it as an opportunity to distance their candidate from a Republican nominating process that has inflicted serious damage on his image. “Voters will now look at Mitt differently and through a different prism,” a Romney aide told the Washington Post. “We can use this new beginning as an opportunity to reintroduce the campaign and the candidate.”

But already we have a clear reminder of the unique challenge he’ll face in trying to separate himself from a party that is viewed unfavorably by nearly six in 10 voters. On a conference call that was supposed to be devoted to condemning President Obama’a economic record, three Romney advisors were asked whether the candidate supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, one of the first laws that Obama signed as president. They didn’t have an answer. Only later, after Obama’s team pounced with a statement blasting him, did Romney’s campaign say that he “supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law” — which immediately prompted groans from conservatives.

This illustrates perfectly the bind that Romney is in as he tries to broaden his appeal for the fall campaign. The Ledbetter Act, which eases restrictions that made it impossible for many women who were the victims of pay discrimination to pursue legal action, has a popular ring to it and is the sort of law that most swing voters are probably inclined to say they support. And it has particular resonance with women, a group that Romney — and the entire GOP — is struggling mightily with. From a general election perspective, it makes a world of sense for Romney to say he likes the law.



But it isn’t just any law — it’s a law that President Obama championed on the campaign trail in 2008, signed almost as soon as he took office, and often cites as one of his signature achievements. It’s also a law that passed in 2009 with just three Republican votes in the House and five in the Senate (and one of the Republican senators voting “yes” was Arlen Specter, who switched parties a few months later). So by saying he supports it, Romney risks insulting a Republican Party base that assumes anything Obama supports amounts to radical government overreach. It didn’t take long for Philip Klein, a conservative writer, to respond on Twitter by calling the law “terrible” and “a bonanza for trial lawyers.”

Consider this the first installment of a story that will be repeated many times from here to November. Romney only won the Republican nomination by endorsing the conservative view on every major issue. It was enough to prevent a full-scale rebellion during the primaries, but conservative leaders and activists are watching him closely for the first sign of a sellout. Given how restive and “purity”-obsessed the party’s base is these days, Romney has far less space to maneuver than previous nominees. There will be plenty more Lilly Ledbetter moments over the next seven months.

Steve Kornacki

Steve Kornacki writes about politics for Salon. Reach him by email at SKornacki@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @SteveKornacki

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>