Bashing President Obama for using teleprompters, even for minor speeches, has long been a reliable way for Republican candidates to get laughs out of the GOP faithful. But on Monday, Rick Santorum fired a new salvo in the GOP's "war on teleprompters," arguing that it should be illegal for anyone running for president to read off a teleprompter, "because all you're doing is reading someone else's words to people." Why do Santorum and Co. keep attacking teleprompters? Here, four theories:
1. It undercuts Obama's image as a great speaker
President Obama's oratorical skill is one of his greatest political strengths, says Jonathan Chait at New York. And yet, many Republicans insist he's actually "an inarticulate dolt capable of stringing sentences together only when they appear in front of him." Mocking his teleprompter use is a way to buttress that "odd belief," and turn an Obama asset into a liability.
2. And it makes Obama look inauthentic
Painting Obama as someone who uses teleprompters to read every word he utters, says Andrew Belonsky at Death and Taxes, is a way to suggest that "he's cold and removed from the American people." Santorum wants voters to think "he's the only true and honest candidate, a candidate who speaks from the heart," while Obama speaks from a script. But Ronald Reagan used teleprompters, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. Was he "stupid and inauthentic too?"
3. This is really about making Romney look bad
"More so than President Obama, Republican primary opponent Mitt Romney may be Santorum's real target in the proposed teleprompter ban," says Adam Peck at Think Progress. "Romney has been known to use the devices during big speeches, even though he's also attacked Obama for using them." And if anything, Romney needs to use teleprompters more, not less, says Yates Walker at The Daily Caller. Because when Mitt speaks off the cuff, he can't help but put his foot in his mouth.
4. In the end, it's simply an effective campaign line
"Republican candidates rely on attacking President Obama's use of a teleprompter for one reason: It works," says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. Newt Gingrich's line about letting Obama use the public-speaking crutch in three-hour, Lincoln-Douglas-style debates is one of his "biggest laugh-getters," and Santorum's "make teleprompters illegal" gambit was a carefully "planned hit" aiming to connect with motivated GOP voters who see Obama as a smooth showman, not a leader.