The one issue with Mitt Romney’s campaign – Mitt Romney

(C) Gage Skidmore

By Devon-Jane Airey

With the Democratic and Republican National Conventions quickly approaching and ‘across the pond’ news reports of America’s preparations for the most expensive presidential election in history beginning to flood the headlines, it is perhaps reasonable to take a look at Obama’s Republican rival, Mitt Romney and his chances of electoral success in November.

Way back, before the invisible primary had raised its ugly head, Romney proclaimed his campaign would only focus on one thing: the economy. Not gun rights. Not gay marriage. Not abortion. Not immigration. Purely the economy, and how President Obama was handling it. And yet, in focusing on the economy Romney has forgotten to define the most important focal point: himself.

Indeed, the House Speaker’s (John Boehner) comments on Romney are all too telling:

‘The American people probably aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney. I’ll tell you this: 95 percent of the people that show up to vote in November … are going to vote for or against Barack Obama. … Mitt Romney has some friends, relatives and fellow Mormons … some people that are going to vote for him…’

It is perhaps, then, his lack of ‘narrative’ to which Boehner is referring. The ‘narrative’ in recent years has become a huge part of American politics (and, some would argue, is increasingly prevalent in Britain too.) The candidate’s background (or what they project as their background) is something that has continually proven to influence American voters – increasingly taking precedence over policy details. Indeed, beyond ideology, candidates seek to craft a narrative that makes them seem ‘real’ to the nation.

However, unlike George W. Bush’s tale of absolution and Obama’s inspiring of insolent hope, little is known of Romney’s ‘narrative’. And, what’s more, this is believed to be deterring the ‘average American’ voter – something, surely, the Romney campaign must fear.

So let me help put this into a little more context. This is, largely, what is known about Romney:

▪He’s the son of a wealthy businessman and statesman who attended elite universities before founding a Wall Street firm that made millions for shareholders while sending thousands of American jobs overseas.

▪He’s an influential member of the Mormons, a group most Americans do not fully understand.

▪ His father, George Romney, was the head of the innovative car company (AMC), a firm that made things, as opposed to a private-equity firm like Mitt’s Bain Capital that makes nothing. He was also a progressive Republican who fought for civil rights and even contravened his own party to achieve equal opportunity while Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Nixon.

▪ And Romney the son is the former (centrist) governor of the only state to initiate universal health care. That would be something to crow loudly about if Romney were a Democrat or if this were 2008. But in 2012, the Republicans’ conservative faction has disqualified the fact that he set the example for the biggest domestic policy program of 21st-century America.

So this much is clear: Romney likes to keep himself to himself. And surprisingly little is known of a man who has spent the past 4 years (and, if we include his run in 2008 probably more than that) on the electoral frontline. But if he hasn’t created a sufficient persona for America to regard him, three guesses (and I bet you you won’t need all of them) as to who will. Obama.

In what can only be described as ‘negative campaigning’ (something increasingly prevalent in American politics) the Obama campaign have done much to damage Romney: presenting him as a corporate businessman who destabilises companies and sends all forms of employment to Mexico and China. Obama’s slandering has been dubbed by some American journals as being ‘Karl Rove Mark II’ – adopting the techniques of America’s ‘dark lord’, if it were, who was acting as George W. Bush’s campaign director and responsible for ‘swiftboarding’ Vietnam War hero John Kerry. Though, Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator has suggested there is a significant difference: where Karl Rove was infamous for grounding his campaign on speculation, lies and the odd bit of conspiracy, Obama’s is based, rather nobly it would seem, on fact.

So, with the Obama team working overtime to slate Mitt and little being done in way of response, Romney, clearly, has one main problem: himself. His failure to build a sufficient narrative may well be his undoing. But, there’s still time… Some commentators have suggested that all Romney need do is convince the public the election is a referendum on Obama’s first term and, if successful, he may be on to a marginal victory. And regardless of Romney’s individual success as a politician, they may be right. Indeed, this is where one can perhaps find Boehner’s comments particularly telling: ’95 percent of the people that show up to vote in November … are going to vote for or against Barack Obama.’ November, then, will be Obama’s victory or defeat and, perhaps, very little to do with his opponent.

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