This Campaign is Turning into a Battle of the Freaks

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If the 2012 presidential election comes down to the question of whether President Obama or Mitt Romney is the bigger freak, scolds nationwide will condemn the national conversation for lacking the depth, but at least it will be entertaining.

When Politico's Ben Smith and Joanthan Martin reported way back in August that President Obama's campaign was planning on attacking Mitt Romney as "weird" -- and that maybe that was code for "Mormon" -- there was outrage. How could Democrats dare to be so bigoted? How could Politico accuse Democrats of even thinking such a thing? A couple months later, we have a clearer picture of where things are headed: Yes, Obama's team will portray Romney as weird. But Romney's campaign, perhaps looking to attack their opponent on his strengths, is countering by suggesting Obama as the real freak.

Democrats have taken great delight in retelling the story Romney told himself about the time he strapped his dog to the roof of his car, but this week, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom tried to destroy the meme by tweeting a reference to a passage in Obama's book about eating dog meat as a kid in Indonesia. Though Romney says he doesn't like "distractions," he can't help but indulge himself. When asked about the dog-meat story, the candidate told The National Review's Jim Geraghty, "Ahhh... You know, I don’t recall eating anything particularly bizarre…" And yet! He foolishly left an opening for Democrats, admitting that when he was a missionary in France, he ate escargot:

"[B]ut escargot and snails and oysters and mussels and so forth are unusual but not exceptional features in American restaurants. I don’t know if those qualify as particularly unusual. Certainly not something you eat every day, but I can’t think of anything particularly surprising that I’ve had the occasion to eat."

Meanwhile, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, was pushing the Romney-is-weird angle to The Daily Beast. Schweitzer told Ben Jacobs that Romney would have a hard time winning Latinos, which is "kinda ironic given that his family came from a polygamy commune in Mexico, but then he’d have to talk about his family coming from a polygamy commune in Mexico, given the gender discrepancy." The governor explained that the ladies are "not great fans of polygamy, 86 percent were not great fans of polygamy. I am not alleging by any stretch that Romney is a polygamist and approves of [the] polygamy lifestyle, but his father was born into [a] polygamy commune in Mexico."

And then there's former President Bill Clinton, who seems to be gloating that he was the Last Great Non-Freak President. Clinton told the Associated Press at a conference in New York Thursday that he could pass gun regulations because he's from Arkansas. "They couldn't turn me into some freak, and I went after them," Clinton said. "I have an unusual cultural advantage to deal with this on a legislative basis."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.