WHY IT LOOKS GOOD FOR ROMNEY IN NOVEMBER
Mitt Romney is boring. That’s partly why he’s had trouble nailing down the Republican nomination for president. But it’s likely to be an advantage in the general election.
In his private life, Gov. Romney is an Eagle Scout. That’s a welcome change from what we’ve become accustomed to from politicians, but is neither colorful nor exciting. And though Mr. Romney isn’t a bad speaker, his campaign rhetoric is neither motivating nor inspiring. He qualifies too carefully what he says, and leans overmuch on clichés.
When he ran for office in Massachusetts, Mr. Romney, understandably, took positions to the left of most Republicans, so many think him a squish. He’s shifted some views dramatically since, causing others to see him as a flip flopper. So he’s had trouble closing the deal against deeply flawed, dramatically underfunded opponents.
But once this dispiriting primary season ends, what have been liabilities for Mr. Romney will morph into assets, because Mr. Barack Hussein Obama can’t run on his record. He must shift the focus of the campaign. Mr. Obama wants it to be on the ‘extremism’ of Republicans generally, and the Republican presidential candidate in particular.
But few regard boring Eagle Scouts as extreme. And people who’ve heard conservatives complain Mr. Romney is a closet moderate are unlikely to believe he’s an ‘extremist.’
Democrats describe opposition to the Obamacare decree religious institutions must provide contraception and abortion drugs in their health insurance policies as the ‘Republican war on women.’ Support for requiring voters to show photo ID indicates Republicans ‘want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws.’
Americans oppose by big margins requiring religious institutions to provide services to which they have moral objections, according to polls last month. More than two thirds support photo ID laws. It isn’t the holders of these views who are ‘extreme.’ Hyperventilating over ‘extremism’ suggests to many that adjective more appropriately applies to Democrats.
Gov. Romney’s low key style increases the likelihood of blow back against Democrats. Many conservatives believe (with good reason) that Mr. Obama is a dangerous radical. But if Americans think the president’s policies are hurting the country, they don’t need to be persuaded he’s doing it deliberately to vote against him.
By questioning Mr. Obama’s competence rather than his motives, Mr. Romney provides a reason sufficient to vote against the incumbent, without making assertions that seem over the top to centrists. Questioning his competence is more likely than any other criticism to prick Mr. Obama’s massive ego. He’s behaved poorly when this has been done in the past.
Most conservatives preferred someone else as the GOP candidate. But lack of enthusiasm for Mr. Romney isn’t the problem some make it out to be. Few conservatives dislike him so much they wouldn’t vote for him. All want very much to turn Barack Hussein Obama out of office. Turnout was low in the primaries, because the candidates stunk. It won’t be in November.
There are two paths to victory in the general election. You can reach out to swing voters, or you can mobilize your base. Most campaigns try to do both. Typically, the presidential candidate moves toward the center while the vice presidential candidate throws red meat to the base.
If Mr. Romney picks an articulate conservative as his running mate, he’ll mitigate his problems with the base, even if he inches closer to the middle.
But Mr. Obama no longer plausibly can present himself as a centrist, so he’s wedded to base mobilization. The trouble with that for Democrats is there are twice as many conservatives as liberals, according to Gallup’s annual poll. And Mr. Obama’s hard left policies unnerve many moderates who supported him in 2008.
Once the opposition party chooses a nominee, his poll numbers usually improve. And in nearly all elections, undecided voters break against the incumbent. So ignore the churning and the spin. Barack Hussein Obama is weaker than any other president in the history of polling, and he’s weaker than the polls indicate.
Mr. Obama isn’t toast. Mr. Romney could stumble so badly the focus will shift from the president’s record to him. The economy might improve substantially. But I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on either happening. So keep the butter handy.
Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.