How do you unify two bitterly divided groups? Give them something in common to hate.
Americans both blue and red, who as a whole are lukewarm on Barack Obama and unconvinced that Mitt Romney is any better, have found their unifying object of derision -- the NFL ref-placements.
In a nutshell: NFL field officials are striking. The replacement refs are really bad -- so bad, in fact, that on Monday the refs called an interception for one team a touchdown for the other.
This has inspired an unprecendented level of cooperation in Wisconsin, home of the screwed-over Packers, by bringing together controversial Republican Gov. Scott Walker and one of the 14 Democratic senators who fled the state in 2011 to avoid a vote on Walker's union-busting bill.
It has also inspired governmental action by a New Jersey state senator, who's already working on a bill to disallow replacement refs in his state. This could be the fastest a government official has moved since the 2010 Republican freshmen got to pick their offices on a first-come, first-serve basis.
So what's it going to take for President Obama to get re-elected? Forget making the American people like you more. Forget talking about budgets, plans and ideas. (Oh, wait, neither Obama nor Romney have been doing that anyway.) Don't even worry about making Romney himself look bad, because he's too vanilla to inspire the kind of hatred that results in 1 million tweets about how epically bad a move was.
No, President Obama needs to find something Americans universally hate, and then tie it to Romney.
Now, this may seem easy, but throwing a zebra shirt on Paul Ryan isn't going to do the trick. I mean, if Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment didn't turn people off from Republicans, you know it's getting more complicated.
Fortunately, I am here as a volunteer strategist. Here are my ideas to bring Americans together in hate.
• Congress. OK, that was easy. But it's hard to tie that to Romney.
• The inevitable worldwide bacon shortage. This is going to be distressing, and given all the companies Bain Capital has bought and downsized, there's no reason to believe a pig farm wasn't on the list.
• The IRS. It could pretty much fund itself with Romney's taxes. Maybe if he'd paid a little less, there wouldn't be enough money to keep it going.
• "Call Me Maybe." Romney may be behind the unexplainable popularity of the song you cannot get out of your head and its 6 trillion lip synchs and parodies. Have you heard him deny it? I didn't think so.
And then there's the NFL. Americans are 100 percent together on getting real refs on the field for us to complain about, and yet we are sharply divided over (and somewhat giving up on) the man who will be running the country for the next four years.
I see nothing to indicate that Romney is not the political equivalent of a replacement ref -- inexperienced on the big stage, constantly saying the wrong thing, in the game because everyone who was better qualified was somewhere else.
The good news is, we don't need a better contract. Voters can actually keep the replacement off the field.
Does that mean Obama is going to make all the right calls? Of course not. I have yet to watch a sporting event in which I did not vehemently disagree with the referee at one time or another and have never met a politician I thought was always on the right track. But I'd rather trust the guy on the field than the one who trusts Paul Ryan.
• Follow Heidi Toth on Twitter @leftinutah.