Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Grading the Should-Be Nominah:

After apparently kicking ass in the last two debates (especially Newt's ass), and then winning Florida by 15-20 points, Romney looks like he will be the nominee.  Of course, he promptly followed up that huge victory by declaring, "I'm not concerned with the very poor."  To which, most of America responded by saying "No shit. . ."

Anyway, the point of this post is a look at Mitt Romney, presumptive GOP nominee.  I remember watching Mitt Romney back in 2007, and was immediately terrified - he's telegenic, has a crooning anchorman voice, was a successful Governor of Massachusetts, and had few skeletons in his closet.  But after watching Romney in the past two elections, I have to say, the more I look at him, the less I'm scared of him.  But if you've been reading this blog, you know that - I've often said that Romney is weird. 

But what has been painfully obvious lately is that Romney has painted himself into the "rich guy who's out of touch" corner.  Now, every Democratic campaign since I can remember has had some element of painting the Republican as the out-of-touch rich guy.  And, for the most part, every candidate has been able to avoid that label.  Nixon grew up poor, Gerald Ford was the football star, Reagan was the man with the humble touch, Bush I in 1988 tied himself to Reagan (then lost in 1992 when he appeared like the out-of-touch-rich-guy), Dole was the war hero, Bush II had the commoner's touch, and McCain was a war hero.  Romney just doesn't have it.

Here's where I find myself in agreement with Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh - Romney doesn't have the lock on electability.  He seemingly can't go a single day without a major gaffe - seriously, today's news should have been entirely about Gingrich's ass-kicking in Florida - and his opponents can use a perfectly reasonable caricature of him that he seems to reinforce at every turn.  And that doesn't include his flip-flopping. 

Now bear with me on this, in the 2000 campaign, the attack on Bush was on his intelligence.  To many people, myself included, Bush was too stupid to be President.  But, as it turns out, Bush is not an idiot - he has some intelligence, and uses his brain when he wants to.  So, all he had to do was show he wasn't a complete moron, and boom, the attack loses steam.  Similarly, in 2008, Obama was attacked for being a foreigner, and all he had to show was that he was pretty normal and the attack lost credibility to everyone who didn't believe it already.  In contrast, in 2004, Kerry was attacked for being a flip-flopper, and then went ahead and said "I actually voted for it before I voted against it."  Kerry's rep was cemented from that moment. 

In other words, a campaign is all about caricatures, both positive and negative.  Positive caricatures, of course, are put forth by the candidate; negative caricatures are put forward by the opposing campaign. When a candidate plays into these negative caricatures, the caricature becomes more than just a caricature, it becomes a narrative.  Right now, the narrative on Romney is that he's an out-of-touch-rich-guy, which wasn't the hit on Romney until this campaign.  It used to be that Romney was called a flip-flopper (and there's plenty of evidence to prove that).

Moreover, and again, I agree with Newt and Rush on this*, Romney will also have problems arguing against Obama's health care reforms because those reforms are based on Romney's health care plan (the only difference is that Romney's health care plan pays for abortions). All this makes Romney beatable. 

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