Skip to comments.Mitt Looks the Part (Barfage? yes, but interesting points)
Posted on 05/24/2011 8:18:34 AM PDT by FreeKeys
Why Mitt Romney still poses the greatest challenge to Obama in 2012
One of my regrets in life is losing the chance to debate Mitt Romney and whip his ass. It was the fall of 2002. Mitt Romney had thundered into Massachusetts with enough money to grab the Republican nomination for governor. Meanwhile, I was doing my best to secure the Democratic nomination. One week before the Democratic primary, I was tied in the polls with the state treasurer, well ahead of four other candidates. But my campaign ran out of cash. Despite pleas from my campaign manager, I didn't want to put a second mortgage on the family home. The rest is history: The state treasurer got the nomination, I never got to debate Mitt, and Mitt won the election.
Now, many polls show Mitt leading the pack for the Republican nomination, which surprises me given the Republicans' recent penchant for self-immolation. Mitt would pose the most serious challenge to a second Obama term.
I say this not because Mitt's mind is the sharpest of the likely contenders (Newt Gingrich is far more nimble intellectually). Nor because his record of public service is particularly impressive (Tim Pawlenty took his governorship seriously, while Mitt as governor seemed more intent on burnishing his Republican credentials outside Massachusetts). Nor because Mitt is the most experienced at running a business (Donald Trump has actually managed a major company, while Mitt made his money buying and selling companies). Nor, finally, because he's especially charismatic or entertaining (Sarah Palin can work up audiences, and Mike Huckabee is genuinely funny and folksy, while Mitt delivers a speech so deliberately he seems to be driving a large truck).
Mitt Romney's great strength is that he looks, sounds, and acts presidential.
Policy wonks like me want to believe that the public pays more attention to candidates' platforms and policy positions. Again and again we're proved wrong. Unless a candidate is way out of the mainstream (Barry Goldwater and George McGovern come to mind), the public tends to vote for the person who makes them feel safest at a visceral level, who reassures them that he'll take the best care of the country: not because of what he says but because of how he says it.
In this regard, looks matter. Taller candidates almost always win over shorter ones (meaning even if I'd whipped him in a debate, Romney would probably still have won the governorship). Good-looking ones with great smiles garner more votes than those who scowl or perspire (John F. Kennedy versus Richard Nixon), thin ones are elected over fat ones (William Howard Taft to the contrary notwithstanding), and the bald need not apply (would Eisenhower have made it if Stevenson had been blessed with a thick shock?).
Voices also matter. Deeper registers signal gravitas; higher and more nasal emanations don't command nearly as much respect (think of Ronald Reagan versus Jimmy Carter, or Barack Obama versus John McCain).
And behavior matters. Voters prefer candidates who appear even-tempered and comfortable with themselves (this was Obama's strongest advantage over McCain in 2008). They also favor the candidate who projects the most confidence and optimism (think Franklin Roosevelt, Reagan, and Bill Clinton).
Romney has it all. Plus a strong jaw, gleaming white teeth, and perfect posture. No other Republican hopeful comes close.
What does Mitt stand for? It's a mystery -- other than a smaller government is good and the Obama administration is bad. Of all the Republican contenders, Romney has most assiduously avoided taking positions. He's written two books, but I challenge anyone to find a clear policy in either. Both books are so hedged, conditioned, boring, and bland that once you put them down, you can't pick them up.
Mitt is reputed to say whatever an audience wants to hear, but that's not quite right. In reality, he says nothing but does it in such a way that audiences believe they've heard what they want to hear. He is the chameleon candidate. To call Mitt Romney an empty suit is an insult to suits.
Yet Romney is gaining ground over Obama. According to the most recent Marist poll, in a hypothetical presidential matchup, Obama now holds a bare 1-point lead over Romney, 46 percent to 45 percent. In January, Obama led Romney by 13 points.
Why is Mitt doing so well? Partly because Obama's positions are by now well known, while voters can project anything they want onto Mitt. It's also because much of the public continues to worry about the economy, jobs, and the price of gas at the pump, and they inevitably blame the president.
But I suspect something else is at work here, too. To many voters, President Obama sounds and acts presidential, but he doesn't look it. Mitt Romney is the perfect candidate for people uncomfortable that their president is black. Mitt is their great white hope.
Obama was elected because voters are shallow.
It was the American Idol election.
My main disagreement is that Reich states that Obama acts Presidential. Obama actually acts feminine and indecisive and even frail.
Barf. This reminds me of David Brook's infatuation with creased pants.
Mitt is smarmy and creepy. I wouldn't buy a used car from him!
Hey! I resemble that comment!
She guffaws at T-paw et.al..
Look, FReepers can make a great argument for an amazing, but obscure congressman like Mike Pence or Col. West (my favorites), but 1/3 of the voters will only pay attention in the last month or so.
You gotta look the part. Sad, but true.
Don't flame-if she or I could wave a magic wand we would be weeping tears of joy as Palin, West, or Pence were sworn in. Not gonna happen.
Absolutely true. But the Swiftboats probably did more to win that election for Bush-—and, don’t forget this-—in Ohio they had a “gay marriage” initiative on the ballot. This was HUGE, and gave Bush Ohio by a comfortable, but not huge, margin (115,000 votes as I recall). Without those two things, Kerry would have won.
Thanks. I think Matt in NJ makes some good points. My wife, who is not pro-life but is down-the-line Republican in almost every other way, likes the Mittster. On the other hand, I know that if he were the nominee-—coming from a Southern Baptist background as I did-—he would lose a significant chunk of the Baptist/conservative vote, just because he’s a Mormon.
I fear she could be right.
personally I think he kind of looks like Herman Munster
He just had to do it, didn't he?
20 years ago, it wouldn't be a contest. Mitt would probably have been the nominee last time. But, it's the age of quick archives and the internet. You don't have to be Winfield Scott to be deemed an inconsistent flip flopper these days, and have the connotations that come with it. Untrustworthy.
The other side of the looks and demeanor end of things is that in a bad economy, Mitt Romney looks and acts the part of corporate CEO, more so than even Trump. Romney comes out of corporate casting 101, but looks like the guy who lays off the workers.
Combine that and the flip-flopping, and people think he'd sell his family out for a nickel or power. Romney couldn't close the door in 08, and he had a much easier shot then than he does now post Obamacare.
Bush was also helped that John Kerry was a traitor back in 1972.
Reich meant this one, he made a lot of accurate observations.
I've always thought that. AND I've always thought that was one of Newt's fatal flaws.
It actually sounds like Robert actually was disappointed that Mitt is starting to show well against Obambi.
After all, he wasn’t saying Mitt was a good candidate. Just that there’s a perception he is because he looks like he fits the bill. He’s worse than x for this reason and y for this reason, and to call him an empty suit is an insult to suits, but hey, the Republicans are racists, so they’re going to pick Mitt because he looks more like a President than O.
All in all, it’s a nasty, vile argument from a nasty, vile little man.
“[Unfortunately for Dems like Reich], Obama’s positions are by now well known, while voters can [still] project anything they want onto Mitt [as they did last time with Obama.]”
Having flirted with the truth, Reich then has to squander analytical points by playing the race card. The actual racists are those who continue to hold Obama to a lesser standard than the one applied to white presidents.
People who voted for Obama in the name of race and giving him a chance find that it hasn’t changed their lives for the better and he doesn’t appreciate their sacrifice.
Of course, we also don’t need Karl Rove telling us to go along with the establishment and stop trying to think for ourselves.
Me too. She’s always right.
Actually, that’s a good point. Although Lincoln had a high, screechy voice-—but in a different era-—while Stephen Douglas had a baritone booming voice.
I wonder, was photography far enough along so that people could see the candidates in the newspaper?
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