Romney's failure to even mention the war in Afghanistan where American troops are still fighting and dying offered another obvious opening for the Democrats -- this time Sen. John Kerry -- to hammer Romney for slighting U.S. soldiers and dodging a discussion over what he would do to prosecute or end the war.
A peevish Romney compounded his Afghan War oversight in an interview with Fox News on Friday, by first chastising Fox interviewer Bret Baier for "repeating it [the oversight], day in and day out" and then suggesting that the sacrifice of U.S. troops just wasn't important enough to make the cut into his speech. Romney said:
"When you give a speech, you don't go through a laundry list. You talk about the things you think are important, and I described in my speech my commitment to a strong military, unlike the President's decision to cut our military. I didn't use the word 'troops,' I used the word 'military.' I think they refer to the same thing."
So, less than two months from the election, the Republicans are in intellectual disarray. Romney and Ryan are basing their campaign on a mix of distortion and concealment -- and neither candidate is particularly popular with the American people.
But what the GOP ticket does have on its side is an enormous media/political infrastructure that could still wrest away the White House and give Republicans control of the House and Senate, too.
A major part of this infrastructure is the vertically integrated media machine that the Right has built over the past four decades, investing tens of billions of dollars in newspapers, magazines, books, radio, TV and well-funded Internet sites. The Left, which has largely played down the importance of media outreach over the same four decades, has nothing to compare with the size and scope of the Right's megaphone.
Thanks to the Citizens United ruling by the GOP-controlled Supreme Court in 2010 -- striking down restrictions on campaign spending -- the Republicans also boast a roster of billionaires willing to open their checkbooks and spend whatever it takes to defeat Obama. Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring in from the likes of the oil moguls Charles and David Koch and casino magnate (and ultra-Zionist) Sheldon Adelson.
Besides an endless flood of anti-Obama and anti-Democratic ads, this right-wing money will finance Republican ground operations designed to negate the usual advantage of the Democrats there.
The combination of money and media also has buttressed the Republican plan for systematic voter suppression. The right-wing media has generated something close to hysteria over "voter fraud" despite the absence of more than a few cases a year. Still, the Right has poured millions into making the nearly non-existent problem an excuse for imposing voting standards to suppress the votes of minorities and the poor.
Of course, tamping down minority votes has been part of the GOP playbook since the days of Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy, but the use of voter-suppression tactics has grown in importance, given the demographic changes in the United States and the alienation that African-Americans and Hispanics feel toward Republican policies.
With overwhelming percentages of blacks and Hispanics expected to vote for Obama, Republican lawmakers across the country have been rushing to require special photo IDs, limit hours for voting and purge voter rolls.
Though the point of this nationwide voter suppression has been obvious (though denied by Republicans), the GOP's House leader in Pennsylvania, Mike Turzai, let the proverbial cat out of the bag in bragging about the accomplishments of the state's legislative session. "Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania -- done," Turzai said in June.
Romney and Ryan need these techniques for holding down the votes of black and brown Americans if white men are to provide the numbers necessary to put the Republican ticket over the top.
But the expansion of these GOP strategies goes even further than this November. The Republicans seem to be setting the stage for a national "Jim Crow" system of laws, i.e., finding ways to methodically reduce the votes of minority citizens and thus enable GOP candidates to continue winning elections in the future with white support.
The November elections, therefore, represent something of a test for the impressive right-wing machine that has evolved over the past four decades. Can it overcome the reality of two unappealing Republican candidates who won't offer the American voters anything approaching a coherent set of policy prescriptions?
Can this right-wing machine exploit its awesome propaganda capabilities to turn out the white male vote while providing sufficient cover for aggressive challenges to minority voting? Can the Right finally turn back the clock in America, not only to before the New Deal of the 1930s but back to the days of literacy tests, poll taxes and other devices to ensure white dominance in the late 19th Century?