If Mitt Romney has what it takes to be president, and I suspect he does,
he will use his present predicament to overcome his greatest vulnerability
in the presidential contest for his party’s nomination, that is, his failure
so far to connect emotionally with voters.
That does not mean that the former governor of Massachusetts will
suddenly say he “feels our pain,” or that he will make teenage girls and
grown men swoon with incendiary rhetoric. Mr Romney’s personality
is not naturally outwardly warm or empathetic; that is not going to change
overnight or suddenly, as if by a political consultant’s wand. But where is it
written in American political history that the nation’s chief executive is
supposed to be the First Therapist or the National Teddy Bear?
In fact, few presidents have been like Bill Clinton. Yet most presidents did
have the knack to relate to voters, that is, voters have found them ultimately
likable. Mitt Romney is a rich man, but he is a self-made rich man. He is
a problem-solving businessman. His greatest problem now is restoring his
campaign for president, subjected for months to “bubble” assaults in the
polls from rivals. He has recuperated from each of these, but the
Republican nomination is now in its decisive stage, i.e. , delegates are
being chosen, voters are finally making up their minds.
Although I have written for months, without endorsing him, that I
thought that Romney would ultimately win his party’s nomination,
nowhere have I suggested that his victory was absolutely inevitable.
In politics, nothing is absolutely inevitable.
What is Mr. Romney’s problem? It is a lack of connection. It is not that
voters cannot “like” him, but they are having difficulty “connecting” to
him. His remoteness is the distance he appears to place (intentional or
not) between himself and voters. Does it come from his personality, his
wealth, his upbringing, and his political circumstances? Yes, all of these.
He can’t change his wealth, nor his upbringing, and his political
circumstances have been thrust on him. But he can share with voters his
obvious dilemma, and invite them to help him solve his problem.
This probably cannot be done alone with massive political advertising by
his own campaign (nor by the SuperPac he does not control), nor by
pretending he does not have a problem. It cannot be solved alone by
superior organization. It cannot be solved simply with his resume.
Mitt Romney needs to get a large number voters to be part of solving
his political problem, and that begins with a simple heartfelt appeal directly
to voters. Voters, I have observed over many presidential cycles, are not
looking for perfect candidates. They look for candidates who agree with
them, but they also like candidates who can admit mistakes, who ask
forgiveness for their personal shortcomings, and most of all, voters
in America like candidates who acknowledge, simply and humbly, that
they, the politicians, ultimately need them, the voters.
I do not presume to say what Mr. Romney should say, and how he should
say it, to accomplish this, but at some point he will, if he is to prevail, have
to do this. If he does not, Mr. Gingrich may yet overcome his own problems
and win this nomination. If neither of them do it, there may yet be a
so-called “brokered” convention, and no one now in the contest may
This election is bigger than personalities, and someone who can do the
job, even if he or she is not now on the ballot, will contend to be
commander-in-chief this November. Mr. Romney earned his fortune,
as they say, ”the old-fashioned way.” If he is to be president, he must
find his way to do this again.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.