So Santorum is out. He was inevitable before, but Mitt is now the de facto nominee. So what should he do next?
He should host Saturday Night Live.
That’s not a joke.
On Facebook, I’ve been having a long-running discussion with my friend Daniel about the amount and the intensity of the Mormon-themed attacks against Mitt that are coming down the pike. He insists they aren’t coming; I think he’s wrong. I do, however, think they aren’t going to come in a full front assault – they’re going to come in the form of “harmless’ comedy. You’re not going to see a whole lot of “we hate the Mormons” messages, but you are going to see more of Stephen Colbert circumcising hot dogs to turn dead Mormons into Jews.
I would prefer the “we hate the Mormons” messages.
Let me demonstrate. Anyone remember this slice of heaven?
Gay rights activist and brilliant pundit Camille Paglia said of this hateful little spot, “Want to cause a nice long backlash to gay rights? That’s the way to do it.” The people who produced this thing didn’t do their side any favors, nor did they do any damage to their enemies. People can easily recognize ignorance and bigotry when it’s exposed to direct sunlight.
But, to paraphrase Mary Poppins, a spoonful of humor helps the prejudice go down.
There aren’t going to be scads of articles and negative ads about how awful the Mormons are, but, in the end, a thousand blog posts aren’t worth a single cutting joke in John Stewart monologue. Now that we’re heading into the general election season, the dialogue is no longer going to be driven by political junkies who write blogs that may or may not have the word “moist” in their titles. It’s going to be driven by real people who avoid politics unless Leno/Letterman/Stewart/O’Brien bring them to their attention. That’s where Mitt’s going to get killed.
If you doubt that, then think back eight years and ask yourself which hurt the Republican ticket more – Sarah Palin’s disastrous interview with Katie Couric, or Tina Fey as Palin chirping “I can see Russia from my house?”
People still quote that line today as if Palin actually said it. She didn’t. But unless you’re a Republican activist who thinks Palin walks on water, or you’re a Bill Maher junkie and you think Palin is synonymous with unspeakable vulgarities describing female genitalia, your image of Palin was likely shaped more by Fey’s caricature than by Palin herself.
Mitt’s already a popular SNL target, with Jason Sudeikis playing him as a weird, pandering automaton.
Mormonism has been mentioned several times, although it has yet to be the central focus of any sketches. Sudeikis-as-Romney thanked Alec Baldwin’s Rick Perry for not playing “the Mormon card,” and, in one strange reference, Sudeikis shows up as Jesus in a Tim Tebow sketch and offhandedly comments that “Mormonism is true. Every word.” As the GOP nominee, the SNL folks are going to be looking for more material to fill the demand for Romney mockery, and Mormonism comes tailor made for just such an occasion.
The best thing Mitt could do, then, is to get out in front of it.
He’s delivered Letterman Top Ten Lists with grace and aplomb,
and he’s smart enough to think on his feet and look like a good sport. It will be much harder to mock him if he shows early on that he’s willing to get in on the joke.
Other politicos have hosted SNL, but usually they wait until the election’s over, or at least until right before the election, when the narrative has hardened and there’s no changing anyone’s mind. Mitt still has time, and if he gets out in front of this thing, he would do something unexpected and interesting, and it would likely do him a whole lot of good.