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With Primaries Over, Romney Needs To Re-Introduce Himself To The Country

Who is Mitt Romney? Via Meadia has been watching Romney for some time, but we feel like we still don’t know him. And it seems we’re not alone in this assessment: according to the latest Gallup poll, Barack Obama holds a near two-to-one advantage (60-31) when voters are asked to name which candidate is more likable.

Also worrying for the Romney campaign is that more Democrats like Obama (89-6) than Republicans like Romney (61-28). Base motivation is always an important factor in an election, and right now Republicans are far less enamored with their man than the Democrats are with theirs.

How concerned should the Romney camp be with the results of this survey? Gallup warns:

[V]oters usually elect the candidate they like more. In each of the last five presidential elections, the candidate whose basic favorable rating was higher won the election each time.

The good news for Romney is that it’s not yet Memorial Day, and there are still nearly six months before voters go to the polls. Apart from the political junkies who paid close attention to the Republican primaries, most Americans have not devoted much thought to an Obama/Romney showdown. This gives Romney time to define himself as voters begin to tune in over the coming months. His advisers would do well to let their candidate begin to reveal more of himself—explain why he’s running, what animates him, what sort of a person he is.

Americans care about more than a candidate’s stance on The Issues. Some political wonks and good government types think this is a bad thing and deplore the way many people vote on their gut feeling about candidates.

Actually, it strikes me that voting on “the issues” is sometimes the dumber choice. So many issues come up in the course of a presidential term and so much of what happens can’t be predicted in advance that it makes a certain amount of sense to vote for the person rather than the platform.

But whether or not this is a smart way to vote, in the real world it is the way many Americans do vote, and Mitt Romney has to figure out how he can make a stronger personal impression on undecided voters.

It isn’t an easy problem to solve. One senses that Romney is more George H. W. Bush than Bill Clinton; he comes from a world where privacy is valued and where sharing can seem like showing off. And one way that candidates bond with voters is through religion; even for voters who don’t have a problem with Mormonism, their ignorance of the faith and the world of Mormon religious institutions and charities means that Romney’s achievements and endeavors in this world don’t mean much.

Add to that the way that Governor Romney’s political persona has changed over the years (or ‘evolved’, to use a term much in vogue at the moment), and it is not surprising that for many voters he seems to be a hard man to know.

It will be interesting to see how the candidate and the campaign work to project Romney to the voters as more than a resume and a good suit. They have a long way to go — but the campaign is still young. (sigh)

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  • thibaud

    Romney seems like a solid, decent, competent centrist with a stellar track record of executive management – in short, just what we need right now. Except for one thing: he can’t lead anyone.

    Leaders do not need to be brilliant or have expertise, but they do need to convey – instantly, powerfully, with few or even no words – a sense that they know where we need to go, how we need to get there, and why everything else is not important.

    Neither Romney nor Obama conveys this. Both are well-intentioned and intelligent, but each is clueless in his own way: Obama in his faculty lounge/urban identity politics bubble and Romney in his sterile boardroom cocoon.

    The #1 problem today for the nation is the same as it was in Sept 2008: the broken real estate market and the collapse in lending, consumer spending and construction employment that go with it. This is the dead weight that’s caused spending, business investment and hiring to stagnate.

    This problem desperately demands strong leadership across all of the key leadership dimensions. The missing vision is of a marketplace without a massive overhang of dead mortgages, one that severely punishes, or eliminates outright, shoddy and/or unsound practices and that gets credit flowing to millions of creditworthy borrowers who are now stymied.

    Plenty of economists have addressed particulars of how this needs to happen. We have no shortage of experienced bankers, lawyers, regulators and other experts who can execute the workouts.

    While there are several paths to get back to a healthy RE market, every one of them requires what neither candidate and neither party is willing to do: expose the hollow wreck that is the balance sheets of our biggest banks, force them to write down their junk and take their medicine, probably also send some executives to jail.

  • stan

    The pct of Dems who say the like Obama is due to a variety of factors: 1) a strong Bradley effect, 2) a strong dose of wishful thinking, and 3) an instinct for team loyalty that is far stronger among Dems than for GOP voters.

    If anyone thinks those numbers have any predictive value, they are fooling themselves.

  • Jim.


    Wouldn’t Romney’s experience with failed companies from his Bain Capital days contribute mightily to his qualifications for conducting a bank cleanup?

    Even if he’s not all that inspiring, certainly he has the technocratic chops to get that job done– bank executive firings and all.

  • WigWag

    If it’s likability we’re talking about, Mitt Romney seems far more likable to me than President Obama.

  • thibaud

    @ Jim – yes, he has the brains to do it. It’s the will that’s lacking.

    As another poster put it on a different thread, our biggest problems aren’t financial; they’re moral.

  • Lorenz Gude

    @stan and @WinWag I’ve seen these likability figures on Jay Cost’s recent blog post where he finds that most swing voters like Obama and also disagree with him on almost all issues. Because Cost is openly Republican but fair minded I take him seriously. While I agree that Romney is amazingly well qualified to reform the banks and deal seriously with other economic problems, he has a long way to go before he convinces me that he would actually do anything. Even with Paul Ryan’s help. I will vote for him regardless, but not expecting anything other than a status quo establishment administration, much like the current one. I think Obama will win because, if not more likable, is less wooden than Romney and a lot more less wooden than Bush was compared to Gore. I think that is what most of what Obama’s ‘likability’ amounts to.

    In my view Washington isn’t ready to change. We need to light a fire under the establishment by electing people like Mourdock some of whom might actually change things. It isn’t at all clear what those changes should be yet, so another 4 years of gridlock is fine with me. And another 4 years of state governments – both Republican and Democratic – facing the arithmetic of budgets ought to begin to clarify what works and what does not.

  • thibaud

    Finally, four years later, the FDIC has put forth a plan to let failing big banks actually … fail.

    One problem: the FDIC by itself can’t execute this strategy. It needs political LEADERSHIP to make it viable.

    Note how none of our pols, in either party, is going out on point to actually build the support and the enabling legislation and resources to make this strategy work.

  • Michael Barger

    Romney has two things going for him:

    1. He’s a decent man.
    2. He knows how to manage organizations.

    It is important to realize he is not just a manager of businesses but organizations – non-profits and religious organizations.

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