Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's hard to win when you let your opponent define you

By Richard K. Barry

Elections guru Charlie Cook had a short and very smart piece today at National Journal assessing Mitt Romney's chances of pulling off a victory in November.

 He begins with this:

It is becoming clear that if President Obama is reelected, it will be despite the economy and because of his campaign; if Mitt Romney wins, it will be because of the economy and despite his campaign.

He makes this key argument:

While there are talented and hardworking staffers and consultants working on the Romney campaign, this column since July has been highly critical of Romney advertising and messaging. The decision to defer any biographical ads until August—ads that would have sought to define Romney on a personal level beyond being just rich, as someone worthy of trust, and as someone whom swing voters might be comfortable having in the White House—is inexplicable. The Obama campaign and allies ripped Romney apart in swing-state advertising, and with no Teflon coating to protect their candidate, it stuck like Velcro. While Romney allies say that such positive ads did not “move numbers” when dial-tested, my view is that these kinds of ads are essential to making their candidate acceptable. No matter how unhappy voters are, if they are uncomfortable with the alternative, the incumbent survives.

And ends with this:

This is a very close race and one that still could go either way. But the odds of Romney capitalizing on this economy, and the opportunity it affords, seem lower than they were before the conventions. If Republicans and Romney supporters are growing nervous, they should be.

Mr. Cook makes what I think has to be the most basic point about this election: As uncomfortable as some people may be with Barack Obama, they like Mitt Romney even less as an electoral option because they don't like him as a person.

 Sometimes it's that simple.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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