A serious case of Mittmouth
The Homos Washingtonius loves nothing more than pouring over a poll while munching on his breakfast granola. Pollsters roam the capital more than traffic wardens or cops. But even by the standards of America’s over-polled election campaigns this one has reached new heights of absurdity.
We now know, for instance, that 60 per cent of Americans believe that Barack Obama is more likely to repel an alien invasion – not kidding – than Mitt Romney. That one came courtesy of the National Geographic Channel. 58 per cent of Americans believe that Barry “the bruiser” Obama would defeat “the Mittens” Romney in a fist fight. We also know how the public slices on who would make a better friend, husband, grandparent and, yes, pet owner. Romney got himself into a lot of trouble on the latter when he decided, many years ago, to strap Seamus, the family terrier to the roof of his car on a road trip to Canada.
Most of these polls are absurd of course. But the industry is insatiable, the money thrown at pollsters seems to be unlimited and in a tight race –even one that is getting less tight- every slither of every margin counts.
As a management consultant and numbers geek Mitt should know that he is entering deep doo doos land. Every candidate clocks up a list of gaffes or indiscretions in a world where nothing is private and everything apart from pillow talk with the missus could end up on Youtube.
Remember Barrack Obama’s remark about Americans in the heartland “clinging to their guns and their religion” in 2008? The McCain campaign pounced on the remark made at a fundraiser. Fundraisers are dangerous because they involve rich people who are on side and need to be egged on with red meat but also waiters with ears and cell phones. They repeated the remark like a mantra because it defined Obama as elitist, aloof and ungodly. The president’s campaign staff was sufficiently worried to go into battle mode. But the remark never made anyone on the campaign leak or spin against their own candidate.
The trouble with Romney is that he has Mittmouth. Every week brings another verbal malfunction. Every verbal malfunction feeds into a growing impression that Mitt is at sea on the issues and, more importantly, that he runs a leaking, incompetent ship without a clear direction. Incompetence and lack of sound judgment are devastating accusations when your whole campaign is based the ability to fix stuff. No wants a bad plumber in an emergency.
In Washington the people around Mitt are already getting stuck into the blame-game before the election has even been lost. That is not a good sign. It happened in 2004 when John Kerry, whose well funded but vacillating candidacy bears some remarkable similarities to Romney’s, was soldiering towards defeat.
I don’t believe it’s all over for Mitt yet. There are 50 days to go before polling day. The debates will be crucial. He is good at debating – on paper anyway – and he has lorry loads of money to throw at the problem. But first and foremost he needs to be clear about his strategy. He hasn’t been able to do it on the six years since he started running for the White House. And now time is not on his side.
The only polls that count, the ones in swing states like Ohio or Florida, have not been looking good.
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