Darren Richardson

Aug. 8, 2012

Any marketing major worth his or her federally subsidized student loan will tell you that the value of a campaign slogan is directly proportional to the ability of the masses to unequivocally understand the intended message. And the shorter, the better.

In the case of “Romney Hood,” a made-to-order made-up word President Obama used during a campaign speech Monday in Stamford, Conn., the many perceived weaknesses of Mitt Romney’s disconnect from middle America are distilled for all to recognize and ruminate upon in a matter of three syllables.

“He’d ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year. It’s like Robin Hood in reverse,” ABC News quoted Obama as saying to the Stamford faithful. “It’s Romney Hood.”

Everyone gets this. It falls under the rubric of “instant recognition” and reenforces the portrait of Romney as greedy fat cat before those who hear it even have to think about what they just heard. We all know about Robin Hood, who famously stole from the rich to give to the poor. Guys like Robin Hood aren’t that popular with the so-called “One Percent,” but they’re generally pretty well-received by the vast majority of would-be voters.

Romney tried some moniker maneuvers of his own during a Tuesday interview on Fox News. “We’ve been watching the president say a lot of things about me and about my policies. They’re just not right. If I were to coin a term it would be ‘Obamaloney.’ He’s serving up a dish which is just simply in contradiction of the truth.”

OK, so “Obamaloney" is kind of funny. It rolls off the tongue without too much effort, and if you’re a conservative, you’ll want to apply it to everything Obama says or does. But it falls short of “Romney Hood” on many levels. “Romney Hood” condenses one particular Romney quality into a self-contained phrase that addresses why Romney's tax policies would be unfair to most Americans as president. People who hear the phrase “Romney Hood” ruminate on a big, bad rich guy taking their hard-earned dollars away so his rich pals can have a bigger share of the riches.

“Obamaloney” is sort of a B-level, all-purpose insult, not nearly as good of a zinger as “Romney Hood” and certainly not as pointed in its ramifications. Where “Obamaloney” might get readers or viewers to snicker or smile, “Romney Hood” packs a punch. It plants seeds of doubt about the presumptive GOP nominee’s tax proposals in voters’ minds even before they have time to tune out what the president is saying.

Look for Obama and his surrogates to use it again on select occasions between now and Election Day. That’s not to say Romney won’t use “Obamaloney” again; he probably will. But Romney will just look like someone saying a funny word over and over while Obama will come across like a guy who knows how to sum up his opponent so fast that everything else becomes one long-winded supporting argument. For those voters prone to tuning out the campaign, “Romney Hood” encourages them to do exactly that. It tells them all they need to know about the former governor of Massachusetts and how he feels about “the little guy.” By the end of the election, it will likely be a full-blown meme, referred to in history books as a successful line of attack by the incumbent against his Republican challenger.

I’m not sure what this tells us about the collective attention span of the electorate, but it definitely tells us that Team Obama knows how to make the most out of Romney’s name. Unless Romney can come up with something better than “Obamaloney,” he’s not going to win this particular war of the words.

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Vote 2012: ‘Romney Hood’ vs. ‘Obamaloney,’ ABC News, Aug. 7, 2012

Romney tax plan is 'Robin Hood in reverse,' Reuters, Aug. 7, 2012