The Hidden Romney
It's been a week since the 2012 mercifully came to a conclusion. While the so-called conservative movement, the tea party, the remnants of the so-called Republican Party and stunned voters everywhere point fingers at each other over a thumping defeat, I think it important to touch on perhaps the single most important reason for the demise of the Romney effort. For all the well-deserved criticism of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on mediocre television commnercials and not nearly enough money on grassroots efforts, the biggest inhibitor for the GOP was a failure to anticipate and respond to the Obama machine's definition of Mitt Romney.
First, it bears mentioning that Romney was the best choice for the Republicans this year. From among the cast of characters that lined the stage during the endless GOP primary debates, Romney was credible, and had that CEO experience which polled well during a flat economy. He also had the potential to broaden the GOP coalition of voters to include more independents and conservative democrats. Romney had a chance at brining blue dogs back into the fold. He was smart, articulate, and by all accounts a morally upright individual with good values and a strong work ethic.
Mitt Romney inherited money from his father and then gave it away because according to those close to him, "he didn't earn it." Romney gave millions to charity and took time to support a wide range of causes. He put business at Bain Capital on hold to mount a search and rescue effort to save the daughter of one of his employees. He gave of himself time and time again to help individuals he barely knew. He fought through the uncertainty of building a business and taking risks. He felt the fear and anguish not once, but twice, as the love of his life battled breast cancer and later came to live with MS.
Mitt Romney is the kind of guy who says please and thank you. He commands great loyalty from those around him for a reason - he appreciates that whatever he has done, he didn't do it alone. From the young staffer to the high dollar donor to the lowest level volunteer, Romeny was often seen on the campaign taking time to show his appreciation. He was and is humble and to a great extent modest in the face of his own success. It is a narrative that makes him likable and relatable. It is quite a contrast to a President that is often viewed as arrogant and entitled.
When his father was president George W. Bush would thank the kitchen staff at the White House after state dinners. He would never depart Marine One or Air Force One without thanking the pilots. Mitt Romney would have been that kind of President.
Here's the problem - the American people never really met that Mitt Romney. He stayed hidden. The campaign failed to anticipate the first page in the standard Democratic Party playbook - paint Republicans as elitist and out of touch with the average American. Obama spent tens of millions defining Romney early on in this light, leaving the public skeptical about him personally and substantively. While Romney's personal narrative was the centerpiece of the convention in late august, by that time it was too late to redefine the former Massachusettes governor. The campaign had an opportunity to continue that narrative during the general election, but didn't follow through sufficiently.
I have no doubt that if the Romney campaign had invested time, money and energy to leverage Romney's personal narrative, enough Americans would have come to see him as a noble, honorable, and relatable. They would have seen in Romney a statesman at a time when statesmen are in short supply.