It could happen. The news of Mitt Romney's abuse of his pet during a family driving vacation has created a firestorm of backlash against the presidential hopeful, and appears to be losing some votes for him.
TIME.com's Swampland blog has been flooded with more than 200 comments from readers complaining of animal cruelty, YouTube viewers have posted satirical videos, and hundreds of personal blogs are brimming with opinions and jokes.
For some, the story has become an occasion to consider larger issues of ethics and animal abuse. Romney, who has built an image as a strong manager, is now facing concerns about his ability to empathize with the less powerful, in this case, his dog, Seamus, riding atop his station wagon.
"I'll admit that I'm coming from a dog-centric point of view," Tucker Carlson, the conservative pundit, said Thursday on MSNBC. "But I'm feeling that maybe Mitt Romney lost my vote here. Do you need to be a PETA member to be disturbed by the fact that this guy put a dog on the roof of his car? Does that bother you?"
For some critics, the answer was yes.
"Well, I am a dog owner, and I can say with certainty that strapping your dog to the roof of the car for a 12-hour drive, windshield or no windshield, is, well, nuts," David Kravitz wrote on BlueMassGroup, a liberal blog. "It also strikes me as classic Romney: it solves a problem efficiently, in a business-like manner, and with no regard whatsoever for the suffering that the solution may cause."
The odd part of this is that the revelation of Romney's abuse came from his own family, who perhaps were just trying to relate another 'wicked funny' story about Mitt the Flipper.
But surely the Flipster isn't going to lose votes over this 'amusing anecdote' about his family vacation, is he? Why, it was all just good, clean fun!
Family members told the Globe that Romney attached a special windshield onto Seamus' carrier to protect him from the wind. Romney was traveling that summer with his wife, five sons, and Seamus to his parent's cottage on Lake Huron. But hours into the ride, Seamus apparently suffered diarrhea, which ran down the back window of the car. Romney's sons, all under 13, howled in disgust. Romney pulled off the road into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, and they drove on to Ontario.
He drove on! Leaving that poor dog on the roof! Mitt has been skewered over this, and rightly so.
TIME's Ana Marie Cox was among the first to weigh in. Under the headline, "Romney's Cruel Canine Vacation," she quoted Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, calling Seamus' ride "a lesson in cruelty" for Romney's sons.
"Thinking of the wind, the weather, the speed, the vulnerability, the isolation on the roof, it is commonsense that any dog who's under extreme stress might show that stress by losing control of his bowels," Newkirk told Cox. "That alone should have been sufficient indication that the dog was, basically, being tortured."
And as the firestorm of opinion mounted, Romney was forced to answer back as to why organizations like PETA were upset with him:
"PETA has not been my fan over the years," Romney said. "PETA was after me for having a rodeo at the Olympics and was very, very upset about that. PETA was after me when I went quail hunting in Georgia. And they're not happy that my dog likes fresh air."
No mea cuplas... to this day Mitt sees nothing wrong with what he did.
I predict this is the nail in the coffin for Mitt. Too bad, his slipping and flipping was entertaining while it lasted, but being an insensitive clod is too much like a repeat of what we've had for the last 6 years, and voters want someone who can think for a change.
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