Who is Mitt Romney? It’s a question Via Meadia has been pondering for some time, and it appears we’re not alone. An editorial in The Economist does a good job explaining why Romney needs to let voters in on who he is and what he really believes:
But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind. America won’t vote for that man; nor would this newspaper.
The Economist goes on to say that the convention may well be Romney’s last chance to grab hold of his narrative. If Romney doesn’t soon seize the initiative and define himself, his opposition will tell the voters who he is. That would not be a good thing for Governor Romney, and it would not be a good thing for the country.We need an election in which the two candidates make the most cogent possible presentations of their points of view. President Obama’s record in office gives Americans a lot of information about his priorities and his vision. But voters trying to understand Mitt Romney have a harder time. Do we judge him by his record in Massachusetts? Which of his past statements are, as the Nixon people used to say, operable?The good news for Romney supporters is that their candidate recognizes the urgency of the situation. In a recent interview with Politico, Romney outlined how he plans to respond to the Obama advertising blitzkrieg, close the massive “likability gap,” and present his vision for the country:
“Certainly, their ads have some impact or they wouldn’t be running them,” he continued. “But there would be an opportunity for people to get to know me better during the debates and during the time in the campaign season when people are actually paying a lot of attention to the candidates.”
This is quite a gamble: whether there is enough time for Romney to hit the reset button (or to shake up the Etch-A-Sketch, if you will) remains to be seen. Come November 6, the decision for Romney to wait so long before introducing himself to the American people will be revealed as either inspired or impaired.And of course, it’s possible that to know him isn’t to love him. Voters may get a clear sense of Romney’s identity and his preferred politics, and then go with the other guy. But either way, Romney owes it to himself and to the voters to tell us as clearly as possible what he thinks about the big issues of the day — and to give us some sense of who the man is who will be making such consequential decisions in our name.