Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is in hotter water than it takes to wash dishes that are already clean over his ill-advised Saturday photo-op at a Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen. After pool reporters revealed that Ryan’s visit to the St. Vincent De Paul Society Dining Hall consisted of washing dishes that were already clean, and after the hall had emptied, the president of the charity blasted the Ryan campaign for “ramrodd(ing) their way” into the soup kitchen, and added that ““The photo-op they did wasn’t even accurate. He did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.”
On Monday night’s The Ed Show, host Ed Schultz tore into Ryan over the artifice involved in his visit to the soup kitchen, which included washing dishes that were already clean, and later speaking only for still cameras, not reporters, with some people who “appeared to be homeless,” wondering just what Ryan could have been saying to them.
“I wonder what Ryan told those men he talked to,” Ed fumed. “He probably didn’t tell them he plans to turn Medicaid into a block grant program, to voucherize Medicare, to slash billions from food assistance programs.”
Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, took the Romney-Ryan campaign to the woodshed last night over the incident. Soup kitchens are not for photo ops, he said. "We're a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations," Antal told the Washington Post. "It's strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors."
So Ryan walks into a clean kitchen, pulls clean pots and pans out of the cupboards, and pretends to scrub-a-dub-dub. He puts the kitchen's fundraising at risk, by making the organization running it seem partisan and making it seem to endorse Romney-Ryan. And it's all so hamhanded and transparent that reporters can't help but figure out what's going on right away. The Youngstown Clean Pot Massacre was not a carefully planned out operation.
So the question is, why? Why stage this photo-op at all?
Because of the 47%, that's why. Polling has Romney closing the gap in Ohio, but not by nearly enough to win. And he has to win Ohio. Worse, current polling trends show Romney's post-debate bounce slowing or even coming down and the race returning to where it was before the debates. The latest PPP poll shows Obama up 5 on Romney in Ohio, similar to the last pre-debate PPP poll that showed him up 4.
And what do Romney's internals show? Probably nothing good. If Romney was doing well in Ohio, he wouldn't want to change the race. So no rushed and poorly thought-out photo-ops; everything would be safe and well-planned, with plenty of time taken to get everything right. No, Team Romney clearly does not believe he's doing well.
And the reason he's not doing well is also clear. As I said, it's that 47% video. Apparently, that's still a big deal in Ohio. "We don't give a crap about the lower-middle-class and the poor" isn't really the best campaign slogan, so off they send Paulie to pretend to give a crap about the poors. Strap on an apron, wash a clean pot... that ought to do the trick.
Except of course it's all backfired now. There's no way this story can help him in Ohio, where pretty much every outlet is reporting Antal's objections to the stunt -- and, in case you missed it the first time around, mentioning that Ryan only pretended to help out. There just is no positive here at all.
If Obama's on his game at the debate tonight, he's going to swing everything he can back to that 47% video. And a joke about Ryan up to his elbows in clean pans and lukewarm dishwater wouldn't hurt any either. After all, fooling the 47% into believing Romney-Ryan gives a crap was what the Youngstown Clean Pot Massacre was all about. And failing to fool anyone is why it's turned into a debacle. There is no way Romney can talk about this -- or even stand there while Obama talks about it -- and look good.
[image via Talking Points Memo]