The Ghost of Rev. Wright

The ghost of Rev. Jeremiah Wright appears in a new Mitt Romney campaign ad, says Democratic strategist Tad Devine. Romney’s new ad, now running in New Hampshire, has been widely panned for falsely attributing a quote to Obama, who was actually quoting John McCain.

But for Devine, the images of African-American women walking in a church foyer, and a camera pan over a large black audience, suggest that Romney is making an attempt to bring the specter of Reverend Wright back to the campaign.

Romney’s attack ad may be typical, but the real story how the words “Record National Debt” flashed over an image of the African-American women. Conservatives who watch the Romney ad may interpret the takeaway to be that black women are in debt and on welfare. But the reality, according to the report published November 17 by Responsible, is that African Americans and Latinos are more than twice as likely to lose their home as white households, even though a majority of the total households who lost their homes to foreclosure are white. That is the real issue that needs to be addressed, and so far, the Republican candidates have been less than willing to discuss foreclosures directly.

While the ad may softly pander to many perceived conservatives racial stereotypes a la Willie Horton, I don’t agree that it brings back memories of Rev. Wright. What the ad does do is to highlight Mitt Romney’s current weakness with ethnic populations. Romney’s campaign has to figure out how to tap into disaffected conservative African Americans and Latino Christians who may actually vote for him, despite the fact that the Mormon ban on African Americans in the priesthood existed until 1978. On race, Romney so far has leaned heavily on his father’s narrative and the participation in the civil rights movement, while sidestepping actually opposing the ban, citing only his happiness about the lifting of the ban.

The Pew Survey released yesterday on Romney’s Mormon faith may bring a glimmer of hope for Romney in the primaries. In the survey, African Americans (42%) and Latinos (47%) were less likely to think of Mormons as Christians* than their white counterparts (55%). But Romney will have a hard time convincing people of color to vote for him if these type of ads continue.

*The original version of this post erroneously stated that African Americans and Latinos were less likely to think of Mormons as non-Christians.