Barry Schumacher is a senior director in APCO Worldwide’s government relations practice.
Not a Fit?
The arc of successful political campaigns begins with a strong introduction of the candidate to the people, continues with a clear articulation of why the opponent should be denied the office and finishes with a robust presentation of why the candidate should be elected. A simple triad, easy to articulate, but very hard to put into practice – especially when the office being sought is President of the United States.
As we sit with less than eight weeks to the election (and at a time when early voting has commenced), Republican candidate Mitt Romney has yet to travel very far along this campaign arc. Despite millions of dollars in campaign ads and emotion laden videos, despite an unpopular sitting president and a slow to recover economy still causing real pain to a great expanse of the American people, Mitt Romney – through poorly judged statements, through self-inflicted errors, tactical missteps and a lack of focus on specifics – has managed to turn this campaign from a referendum on the policies and outcomes of President Obama to a question of whether he is better suited to lead this country than the President.
Simply put, the questions being asked by many Americans are twofold. First, is Mitt Romney fit to be President of the United States? Second, is Mitt Romney a fit for a newer, more diverse America?
To some extent, the answers to the questions will depend largely on the predisposition of the voter. Hard core Democrats will obviously answer no. Hard core Republicans will say yes. But to the independent voters, who hold the balance of the election in their hands, the answer is probably mixed, but I suspect the answer is increasingly no to both. Rightly or wrongly, Romney is seen as running a poor campaign where he is making bad (and malicious) statements almost daily. Members of his party are either criticizing him directly or running away from him locally. If he cannot run a campaign, some say the logical extension is that he cannot run a country. Probably unfair, but the sentiment is there. Likewise, casually dismissing 47% of the country as people who only want to live off of the federal government is not only untrue but shows a limit to his understanding of the country itself. With statements like these, if elected, could he actually represent the entire nation?
As unfair as these conclusions might be to Governor Romney, the fact that they exist and that they now dominate the campaign is bad news for him. Eight weeks is an eternity in the life of a politician and a political campaign, but unless he gets the uncommitted few to believe he and his policies are better suited to lead America than President Obama and to do so quickly, his campaign arc will not end well.