Mitt no match for amiable Obama routine
Even Republicans seem to have given up defending Mitt’s charms. As John Boehner memorably put it: “The American people probably aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.”
Some say Romney waited too long to put up his biographical adverts and give personal interviews, letting himself be defined and slimed by the Obama commercials.
“The Obama camp can raise a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner on their summer project,” said Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff. “With Romney’s help, they have defined Romney as a man with total disregard for the struggles of the middle class.”
Once a candidate gains the edge in “Who do you want to have a beer with?” – even if he doesn’t drink beer – it’s hard to reverse.
When Obama does rough adverts, it allays the fear that he’s the sort who can get rolled by the banks, by the generals, by the Republicans in the House. When Romney does rough adverts, it reinforces the fear that he’s unfeeling and a bit of a bully marketed by political mercenaries.
With only two weeks to go before the convention, the question burns: Will Mitt’s new mate, Rep Paul D Ryan of Wisconsin, make his run more personable?
You can bolster relatability with your number two pick, at least with certain demographics, as Obama did with Joe Biden. But Americans like to like their president. “You can’t outsource likability,” says Emanuel. “You can’t have an offshore account for it in the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands.”
Romney’s all-business/all-family rigidity makes him seem inaccessible. And his tax legerdemain has made him seem shady. As Marc Wolpow, a former Romney employee at Bain Capital, said in a Boston Globe story about Mitt’s 1988 deal with Michael Milken while the junk bond king was under investigation: “Mitt, I think, spent his life balanced between fear and greed. He knew that he had to make a lot of money to launch his political career. It’s very hard to make a lot of money without taking some kind of reputational risk along the way.”
In the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Karl Rove urged Mitt to reveal his character in his convention speech by talking openly about “his father’s modest upbringing, his wife’s illness and his wealth”.
Obama lost the thread of his narrative of hope and change, and Romney never developed one, even on his supposed speciality, the economy.