Things to consider as Romney plots a comeback.
Voters don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. Passion, character and trust are the most compelling reasons voters invest their support in presidential candidates. Governor Romney is currently losing that battle to Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama.
Republican primary voters view Newt and all his warts and baggage as the candidate best equipped to intellectually and ideologically engage Obama. They trust he will challenge Obama on the core philosophical direction of government and battle him on the fundamental issues that will restore America’s economic strength and greatness.
Prevent defense seldom works in a competitive primary. Romney’s last man standing strategy, even if successful, would have been a tepid launching pad against Obama. It assumed Romney will automatically solidify the intensity of every anti-Obama voter from the right and the center. That disregards a fundamental fact that Romney must be viewed as a credible conservative alternative matured through a primary process and prepared to challenge Obama and his failed liberal record. Now Romney’s hand has been forced into a battle with Gingrich over who is a more legitimate conservative and who is more electable against Obama and the ladder is never an effective message for core Republican primary voters.
The technocrat as leader trap. In 2008 Barack Obama ran as a passionate forward thinking post-partisan leader and won. He has governed as a technocratic intellectual academic liberal and the results have been miserable. Now he is attempting to reignite the flames of passion by running against the failed government he has overseen and he has abandoned all pretense as a post-partisan leader as he makes a direct appeal for using higher taxes and more regulations to further empower the heavy hand of government to level the economic playing field. After witnessing the abject failure of Obama the technocrat does anyone think voters are in the mood to choose a Republican technocrat? To defeat Gingrich and Obama Romney must demonstrate for voters his core and character and his ability to be a strong, if not passionate leader.
Romneycare, unfortunately the cat is already out of the bag. Mitt Romney’s an articulate, smart and no doubt a hard working candidate, but he is now positioned as a salesman lacking passion in his message. Steve Jobs lamented great innovative companies begin to fail when the salesmen take control and innovation and product quality become secondary. I’m sure the Governor’s answer on Romneycare has been poll and focus groups tested, but it lacks credibility. Claiming the mandate was right for Massachusetts but constitutionally wrong for the country is counterintuitive and feeds the beast of hesitation voters have about trusting the Governor. This was an opportunity lost, a chance for Romney to look conservatives in the eye and connect with them on a personal level by saying it was a mistake, that he learned from it and would use those lessons to be a champion for killing Obamacare. Is it too late, maybe, but the governor needs a moment like that to connect with conservative voters.
Mitt Romney can still win. He has tens of millions of dollars to attack Gingrich, a treasure trove of past Gingrich issues and activities to choose from and the backing of the GOP establishment. Yet the reality is that both he and Gingrich have each changed previous positions and have been on the wrong side of conservative litmus test issues. That’s not the point. The point is will Mitt Romney define the character and core of why he does things and relate that to how he will restore and lead America as the conservative alternative to Barack Obama? It he does that he can still capture the imagination and support of Republican primary voters.
We shall see.