Each time he runs for president Mitt Romney probably expects it to be easier to expand his fan base beyond those allowed to ride inside the family truckster. But even when he runs against inexperienced philanderers, experienced philanderers, ignorami, Texans, crotchety theoreticians, and anti-non-straight non-white non-Christian no ones, Romney is only the default frontrunner. He is the apple with the fewest bruises which is only palatable when compared to the rest of the bunch.
People don’t care for Mitt Romney because something about him suggests that he thinks he has a sense of entitlement. There doesn’t seem to be a humble bone in his body and when he tries to act humble, it comes off as ultra-superior like the time the quarter-of-a-billionaire claimed (for a laugh) that he was also unemployed to a group of unemployed Floridians. The only pain Romney is feeling is the pain of having to shake hands with so many of THOSE people whose bathtub doubles as a shower stall.
Romney has the opposite of Teflon coattails. Unflattering perceptions stick well to him because he hasn’t given anyone cause to really like him. This is a large part of what is going to make Obama’s job easier when the general election comes. As a matter of fact, Team Obama couldn’t wait for the nomination process to finish before caricaturing their inevitable opponent. The Obama campaign has been working on one of those hypnotic catchword drives that we usually associate with those well-oiled Republicans. Democrats are handing out free samples of the phrase “Mitt Romney’s core” to anyone who is willing to repeat it and the product is starting to take. Voters being interviewed about Romney are beginning to talk about how they “aren’t sure” about Romney’s core as if they thought those words up themselves.
To add to his core problem, a vengeful Newt Gingrich has turned Romney’s career as a conscienceless capitalist into an election issue. After portraying himself as the benevolent provider of jobs who spread employment throughout the kingdom, it seems that Romney and Bain also hath taken jobs away in the name of making a gazillion bucks. The Republican establishment line of defense is that losing jobs is a healthy part of the capitalist cycle. That may be true, but that wafer thin mint doesn’t take the Romney taste out of anyone’s mouth in the midst of high unemployment.
Nixon had Checkers (“We’re keeping him”) and Obama had Jeremiah Wright (“We’re cutting him loose”). Bain Capital is just the next in that Checkers-Wright tradition. What is to be seen is how Romney deals with Bain. If he finds a way to dispatch of it masterfully, it cuts into the Obama reelection odds. Looking at Romney’s history of personal appeals, it looks like Obama’s odds remain unscathed.
The reason for political mainstays like the Checkers Speech is to put issues to rest and to prevent the candidate from being put on the defensive for the remainder of the election. Thus far, Romney has been on the defensive in a spectacle of sound bites that are softball pitches to late night monolog writers. The writing is on the wall for me; Romney is going to have to make his Bain Speech. Good luck to him. The challenge is finding a way to talk about the goings-on at a financial services firm in a way that make people give a shit. My bet is that he won’t. It’s just not who he is. Romney has yet to try to seem human without it ending with an awkward thud.
This was supposed to be the election where Romney could win if he just talked about jobs and the economy. Along the way Occupy Wall Street popped up, bringing to light the disapproval many Americans have with the Wall Street ethos. Just weeks ago, Gingrich mocked Wall Street occupiers by telling them to take a bath and get a job. Now he has seized their message in order to help tear down Romney. Just because the Republican Establishment has lined up to defend Romney does not mean he is out of the woods. Until he finds a way to deal with it effectively, Bain will be the big diamond crusted bling hanging around his neck from a gold chain. The press won’t be able to stop talking about it in the absence of any bigger gaffe. Romney was already damaged goods without the unveiling of the Bain offensive given the burden of his robotic disposition. Now his GPS is set for the trash heap. But what do I know? I predicted Romney would choose Haley Barbour as his running mate. That definitely ain’t happenin’.