the national interest

Romney Straining to Get to the Right of Genghis Khan

Photo: Brooklyn Museum, Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The unpredictable Republican presidential race has taken another surprising turn as recent numbers show Mongol warlord Genghis Khan seizing the lead in national polls of likely GOP primary voters. Benefiting from widespread doubts about Mitt Romney’s authenticity and ideological commitment, Genghis has changed the shape of the race by sounding sharp populist themes that resonate with supporters of the tea party. “Mitt Romney wants to manage Washington, D.C.,” he told an enthusiastic crowd in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I want to burn it to the ground, slay its inhabitants, and stack their skulls in pyramids reaching to the sky.”

Romney’s advisers privately fret that such sharp rhetoric may play badly with upscale suburban swing voters in a general election. Their dilemma is that they cannot attack Genghis’s often harsh positions without reinforcing doubts about Romney’s own right-wing bona fides. Romney has dispatched previous conservative rivals by sowing doubts about their conservatism, assailing Texas Governor Rick Perry as soft on illegal immigration, Newt Gingrich as a Washington insider, and Rick Santorum as a supporter of earmarks and raising the debt ceiling.

Genghis Khan, who boasts of never having previously set foot in Washington or even the entire Western hemisphere, is the most challenging target thus far.

One vulnerability is his colorful personal life, which includes six wives, countless concubines, and habit of eating raw horseflesh. Romney has subtly exploited these weaknesses, recently appearing with his wife, Ann, at a Burger King in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Here I am, accompanied by my one wife, consuming a sandwich consisting of cooked animal meat,” he told campaign reporters. (Romney paid for the meal by handing the cashier a $1000 bill, telling him to keep the change.)

Genghis’s surge to the top of the polls began after a recent debate in Williamsburg, Mississippi. After moderator Brian Williams questioned if his popular campaign promise to not only defeat President Obama but to enslave his family was racially insensitive, Genghis angrily replied that he enslaves the families of all his defeated rivals, regardless of race. Then, in a dramatic touch that reminded many Republicans of Ronald Reagan’s famous I-paid-for-this-microphone moment, he charged down from the stage on horseback, decapitated Williams, and displayed his head before the roaring crowd. At a post-debate focus group led by pollster Frank Luntz, numerous attendees praised Genghis for standing up to, as one attendee put it, “the politically correct media.”

His continued strong showings have the Romney campaign contemplating more forceful tactics. Pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future today released a new ad assailing Genghis for having established a vast mail delivery network based on riding stations, like the post office, and having failed to completely conquer China. The ad includes the tagline, “More government bureaucracy, soft on defense,” while the screen morphs Genghis’s face into that of Jimmy Carter.

The latest ARG poll has Genghis leading Romney by eight points in Ohio.

Romney Straining to Get to Right of Genghis Khan