Wow, people really do not love Mitt. A recent Onion article satirized his failure to connect with voters (and staffers!) emotionally. He can’t even get a break on Google! (Type in “Romney can win” and it will ask if you meant to type “Romney can’t win”). Is it his Mormonism? His politics? His polished good looks? His front-runner status among the under 35 and over 65 crowd (everyone except the likely voters)? Why does he still feel meh to so many voters, despite the probable inevitability that he will be the GOP nominee? Let’s take a closer look.
First, religion. How much of this is due to religious prejudice? Much has been made of the fact that the left is less likely to vote for a Mormon than the right. That should be a no-brainer since the church has made several very public conservative moves (e.g. Prop 8 and banning cross-dressing toddlers from our trunk or treat parties) and Utah has been a solidly red state for a couple of decades now. I wouldn’t call lack of Democrat support for Romney a religious disqualification since he’s running for the GOP nomination. And while the church looks very Republican to outsiders, it is less staunchly so (certainly than many other churches), as evidenced by the fact that Harry Reid is the top Mormon politician in the country today.
Polls that include Democrats in stating that Americans are less likely to vote for a Mormon are misleading, IMO, because they fail to acknowledge the political reason; correlation is not causation (although the correlation committee may be the causation of boring lessons). The failure of the GOP to acknowledge Mitt as their best bet to beat Obama, OTOH, seems to me to be at least partly motivated by religious prejudice, the belief of social conservatives that only someone with the same religious beliefs can truly share one’s values and the willingness of the ignorant to be scared off by fear-mongering pastors. Or as one journalist from Des Moines put it, the GOP has become the party of nervous white people from Jesustucky. Ouch.
Yet another recent poll shows that only 40% of Americans even know Mitt is Mormon. Or at least until the pollster told them.
That brings us to politics. Satiric poet Calvin Trillin theorized about Mitt: “So quick to shed his moderate regalia. He may like Ken be lacking genitalia.” (A bit mean-spirited, but in his defense, it rhymes). Leaving the genitalia aside for now (if I had a nickel every time I said that phrase . . . I’d have a nickel), Romney seems unlikely to ever be forgiven for being a Red governor in a Blue state. What should be an asset for a president, the ability to work across the aisle, is instead a liability, thanks to the caucus process in our two-party system.
Is Mitt in fact a conservative who wanted to be an effective governor and knew he had to compromise to get anything done, or is he a true moderate? Is he a conservative of convenience? Or was he a moderate of convenience? It’s hard to tell. Stories about his rabid anti-abortion stance as a young bishop in the 1980s sound pretty conservative to me. But people change over time with experience.
Obama, who clearly thinks Romney is the man to beat, has accused Romney of having “no core” and of being willing to say anything to get elected (IOW, he accused him of being a politician!). It’s an interesting observation from Obama who has been criticized for failing to compromise or find any middle ground that is acceptable to Republicans. So, which is worse? Standing firm in an ideology or finding a middle ground solution? Isn’t the flip-flopper charge one that is always levied at moderates? Are we a nation that can only accept intransigent leaders incapable working with opposing viewpoints?
Then there’s personality: Romney’s perceived lack of warmth and authenticity. He comes across a little cold and robotic. Why isn’t this killing him this time around? I can think of several reasons:
- More experience. Here’s where the extra campaigning experience has paid off. The new Mitt has been coached well. He’s not making the rookie mistakes of the last campaign.
- The benefit of contrast. He & Huntsman often look like the only rational, sane non-science-denying people on the stage. Except to irrational, science-denying people who apparently think they look like the anti-Christ.
- Economic depth. Romney actually has an economic plan that isn’t laughably bad (or a regressive tax or a string of punchy adjectives purporting to be a plan).
- Robot vs. robot. Many of the same criticisms of coldness and composure have been leveled at Obama.
So, why do you think people still aren’t connecting with Romney emotionally? His religion?
His cold, business-like demeanor?
Or do you feel he is connecting? Do you disagree with the critics? Discuss.