The 2012 presidential race looks to be a squeaker, with both candidates struggling to overcome serious handicaps. Republicans are horrified that Romney has a great story to tell, but can’t seem to get it out there. He is, for sure, no great orator. That puts him at a significant disadvantage to President Obama, who has been known to send thrills traveling up his admirers’ legs.
On the other hand, Mr. Obama, crowd-pleaser extraordinaire, seems to have a hearing problem. Even after a crushing mid-term election, and months and months of tell-all polls, Mr. Obama has clung to policies that voters don’t like. He seems to think they just haven’t heard him properly – and if he keeps repeating the virtues of ObamaCare, for instance, the electorate will come around.
It’s quite a match-up; at the moment the race is a dead heat.
How can Mitt Romney, with his remarkable dossier of achievement, not be miles ahead of an opponent with negative approval ratings, no discernible leadership skills, a fictitious yet still unimpressive background, and who leans far left of a generally conservative country?
Voters acknowledge that President Obama has mishandled the economic recovery, failed to confront our fiscal problems, embraced unpopular legislation, contravened the law through executive orders, broken numerous pledges on taxes, taking public monies, not hiring lobbyists and publishing bills before they are signed, managed to blame his problems on anyone handy and cynically chosen to severely divide the country. And yet, in spite of these monumental shortcomings, Mr. Obama is deemed “likeable” and is running even with Romney.
It may be because Mr. Romney has what might be called a political speech impediment. I like to think it’s partly because he does not lie easily, an unusual affliction for a politician, and one which puts him at a great disadvantage to President Obama. While Romney weighs each word with the precision of a chemist, President Obama can rattle off convincing half-truths with the ease of a side show barker.
Romney is also a victim of corporate-speak; his language derives from the boardroom where the brightest thrive and the most cautious survive. It’s the kind of talk heard in Romney’s world -- a world of consultants and research analysts, and extraneous parenthetical phrases.
Consider Romney’s recent mangled message on the health care ruling: “The Supreme Court has the final word, and their word is that “ObamaCare is a tax, so it’s a tax” the GOP candidate finally concluded. How about instead, “It’s a tax; the Supreme Court says so.” Why the extra phrases? Because that’s how Romney speaks.
When Romney was asked why he is endorsing former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, who is running against the incumbent who beat him four years ago, the GOP contender had this to say, “We have a lot of mutual friends and share mutual supporters, and we both governed pretty difficult states and faced fairly hostile legislatures, so we have a lot in common.” Wow. That will get folks out of their seats.
Criticizing President Obama: “If ever there has been a president who has failed to give the middle class of America a fair shot, it is Barack Obama.” Yikes! Couldn’t he say, “Barack Obama has failed our middle class?”
Eliza Doolittle said it best: “Words, words, words – I’m so sick of words!”
Romney is also tongue tied because he hesitates before spitting out fibs. President Obama has a more casual relationship with the truth.
For instance, remember Obama saying, “I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
The bill squeaked through the House 219-212 with not one Republican voting “aye” and only became law through the trickery of reconciliation. Unprecedented step? Has our Harvard Law Review grad not heard of Marbury v. Madison?
Or, on health care: “I don’t want government bureaucrats meddling in your health care.”
Seriously? Or how about “I am proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks” – a comment that drew a bipartisan guffaw from the crowd.
The president is at his most creative in his memoirs, when he creates supposedly meaningful relationships out of thin air; the people with whom he experienced life-altering “epiphanies” didn’t really exist. In an excellent piece in The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson aptly describes the president as “the first Obama fabulist.”
The president is not only creative with the truth, he also can’t hear.
Poll after poll has proven that Americans do not like ObamaCare, but the president is sure the country will come round. Surveys say our country is more worried about Big Government than Big Business, but the president applauds Uncle Sam’s growing mischief in health care, autos, insurance, student lending, coal mining, wind mills, education, consumer finance and dozens of other activities.
Small business owners complain that red tape is killing them, but the EPA and National Labor Relations Board (among others) spin out hundreds of new regulations. Polls show support for organized labor is shrinking; President Obama wants to rebuild union power. Fully 75% of the country describes themselves as conservative (40%) or moderate, and only 21% liberal, and yet we have a president that embraces every left-wing cause. No wonder 70% of Americans feel we are headed in the wrong direction!
If Mitt Romney doesn’t find his voice—and soon—he will lose this election. If President Obama doesn’t tune in – we will lose the country that has brought prosperity to more people than any other in history. Yes, it is that important.