30 Aug 2012

Mitts come off in race to the White House

This election is turning out to be very close and that’s why the mood is getting ugly.

Europe – on the whole – can’t imagine Barack Obama losing just like they couldn’t fathom Reagan beating Carter, Clinton beating Bush senior or Kerry losing out to Bush junior.

In America it helps to expect the unexpected. Remember the headline in the Daily Mirror in 2004 after George W Bush was re-elected: “How could 53 million Americans be so stupid?” Now that was a stupid headline. It fails to grasp, among many other things, the underlying conservatism of this nation. It would be just as shortsighted to believe that President Obama’s victory is inevitable because Mitt Romney is as wooden as his teak platform at the Tampa Convention.

Obama’s advantage is only wafer thin. The balance could be upset by any number of things: another walloping from the Eurozone (hurts Obama), worsening unemployment numbers (hurts Obama), an international crisis hailing from China, Russia or North Korea (hurts Romney), Iran doing something really rash (don’t know who that hurts more).

Then there are the debates. Romney is a very good debater and thanks to the death march of the primaries (more than 20 debates!) he has had lots of practice.

The least decisive “known unknown”, to borrow a phrase, in all of this is probably Romney’s big speech to the Convention tonight. Unless there is divine intervention from the Gods of Rhetoric I just can’t imagine Romney giving the kind of speech that would fire up the Convention and surprise the audience watching on their sofas, fingers poised on the buzzer.

What Romney needs to do tonight is to surprise by being blunt. Less milk of Ambrosia more linseed oil. That means stating unequivocally that he is dull but good. He really is the plumber in chief who has come in to fix America’s pipes. You don’t need or indeed want poetry from your plumber.

He could make the contrast with Barack Obama who was an electrifying candidate but a disappointing President.

Mitt’s issue is not his charisma bypass but the fact that America doesn’t trust him enough. He has been too many things to too many voters. Romney doesn’t have a Mormon Problem he has a Bain Capital Problem. And I am not talking about the mountains of money he made. The issue is his mindset as a consultant. He is results driven, flexible and always ready to cut a deal as long as it improves the bottom line. That plays well in business. It might even make him a good President. But it is not suited for the campaign trail.

Mitt, in short, needs to be Nanny McPhee: “When you need but do not want me then I must stay and when you want but no longer need me then I have to go.”

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