On the bright side though, he and his campaign haven't been stellar examples of competence. He's constantly tripping over himself. The real Mitt often shows up at the least opportune moments. But it's easy to focus on the gaffes to the distraction from the lies.
Somewhere in our recent history (i.e., during the Bush administration), it became a terrible thing to call a lair a liar. The media shies away from pointing out untruths, preferring instead to simply report the things a public figure says -- and then report how that figure's political opponents respond. If the only information you ever got was from the mainstream media, you'd live in a world where there's no such thing as facts and lies, only differences of opinion.
So it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that a photo circulated by Romney spokesperson Ryan Williams (posted above) isn't the most honest depiction ever.
Jason Easley has a post up debunking Williams' photo. It turns out that the photo wasn't taken during the rally, but "that the picture was taken before the president went on stage." He goes on to post other photos from the rally and it's pretty clear that the 14,000 attending looked a lot like you'd expect a crowd of thousands to look like.
He goes into a sort of forensic analysis of the photos -- which I tend to hate. People don't understand photography as well as they think they do. It is what it is. A photo of people milling around an arena before the main attraction takes the stage. If you've ever gone to a concert, you know what it looks like -- it looks like that photo. And he supplies other photos taken after Obama took the stage that don't look like that at all.
"The truth is that President Obama drew 14,000+ in an 18,000 seat arena," Easley writes. "It wasn’t a sellout, but it was about 13,500 more people than Romney’s largest crowd in Ohio. As the Washington Post pointed out Romney has drawn crowds of several thousand during the campaign, what they didn’t mention is that most of his thousands were bused in Mormon college students, but Obama’s crowd today was exponentially bigger than anything Mitt Romney has drawn this year."
Easley writes that the Romney campaign is trying "to erase the memory of Mitt Romney giving his big economic address to 80,000 empty seats at Ford Field in Detroit," something I likewise brought up. But this is an unsatisfying explanation -- after all, doesn't it invite the comparison? Yes, I just wrote that Team Romney is incompetent, but that doesn't mean everything they do is a screw up.
I think a better explanation comes from Jesse Singal at Political Animal:
On the one hand, [the he said/she said over the photo is] all a bit excruciating. On the other, it’s a telling sign of the GOP strategy: Argue that Obama’s magic is gone, that his glory days are over. He’s just another politician now. Cut him down to size: That’s how the GOP plans on competing against an incumbent who is a lot more likable than their guy.
In this explanation, the embarrassing failure that was Mitt's Michigan rally doesn't matter. Because it's not about Mitt, it's about Barack. Measure any politician's campaign by the bar set by Barack Obama in 2008 and they'll look pretty weak -- even when that candidate is Obama himself. No one's super-excited about Romney, but that doesn't matter much if you can convince people that they aren't super-excited Obama either. What better way to level the playing field? Go ahead and compare the two rallies -- Team Romney wants you to. So long as the conclusion you draw is that both candidates have the same problem.
If it takes another lie to launch that message, then that's just Mitt being Mitt.