Being in the media, I have no friends, as it should be. If I did, however, 3 of 10 Republicans would surely take offense to this column, since it points out what is increasingly obvious to everyone but Mitt Romney’s 30 percent base of support: Mitt won’t beat Barack Obama.
Should Romney become the GOP nominee — likely, but not certain — he will have a difficult time unseating the President. Can he win? Given the stagnant economy, high unemployment, and skyrocketing gas prices, yes. But will he? No.
Since many Republicans are calling this election the most important in history, it’s worth a look at why Romney will fall short:
1) He cannot relate. Nominating Romney would be par for the course for a GOP that likes to elevate stiff, out-of-touch pols who can’t relate to most Americans. John McCain, Bob Dole, and George Bush I (after he acted like he had better things to do than campaign for reelection) are prime examples.
Of course, it is rare for an incumbent president to lose, which occurred only four times in the 20th century. But in those instances, sitting presidents lost to charismatic leaders articulating bold visions. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton achieved success over Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, because, more than anything, they were extremely effective communicators, speaking from the heart rather than a script. There was a widespread perception among Americans that these candidates were talking directly to them — that they were leaders who innately understood what the problems were, and how to solve them.
On a scale of one to ten, Romney’s ability in this regard is zero. Not only is he unable to relate, but when he tries, things gets worse. He either becomes a laughingstock (an aloof Northeastern moderate patronizing unamused Southern conservatives by saying "y’all" and "grits" as many times as possible) or a human gaffe machine ("$10,000 bet," "I’m not concerned about the very poor," telling unemployed people that he too is "unemployed," he knows what it’s like to worry about getting a pink slip, and "I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners," among countless other beauties).
Romney doesn’t understand that trying to be someone you aren’t is death to a candidate. Nowhere was that more apparent that in 1988, when another Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, was photographed riding in an army tank. Given his liberal positions on national defense, Dukakis was ridiculed to such an extent that his candidacy never recovered, with that iconic photo symbolizing his ill-fated campaign.
Apparently not a student of history, Romney is doing his best to upstage his Massachusetts colleague.
2) Romney is regressing. After spending hundreds of millions over the last six years, Romney is still routinely losing 7 of 10 Republicans. And that is with a weak field. Ron Paul is running to keep the others honest, Newt Gingrich has won just two states, and Rick Santorum, who two months ago was polling at two percent, is surging only because he is the last "anti-Romney" candidate standing.
Comparing apples to apples, Romney is faring considerably worse than in 2008. That negative trend is bad enough, but even more startling is that four years ago, Romney faced a number of credible candidates, including John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson. In other words, he is doing worse now despite competing against a rag-tag cadre of opponents who have virtually no money or organizations and who mathematically can’t win the nomination.
The proof is in the pudding: of Romney’s 15 wins (out of 27 contests), he has barely broken fifty percent in just four — heavily Mormon Nevada and Idaho, his home state (Massachusetts) and Virginia, where Gingrich and Santorum weren’t even on the ballot. In fact, Romney couldn’t even attain 60 percent against "quirky" Ron Paul — known for his non-interventionist foreign policy and reduced military spending platform — in Virginia, despite it being one of the biggest military and defense industry states in the country.
Four years ago in Minnesota, Romney garnered 41 percent, yet this time (as the "frontrunner") he won less than 17 percent of the vote—yes, 17! In his true home state of Michigan, where he grew up while his father was governor, he hung on just enough to defeat Santorum — and that was after a dismal debate performance by Rick. In Ohio, despite vastly outspending his opponents, he eked out a one point win. And most recently, not only didn’t he win Alabama or Mississippi, but came in third in both states.
A successful candidate needs to win states in every region, an achievement that has thus far eluded Romney. A number of Mitt’s wins have been in states that will go Democratic in the general election (Vermont, Massachusetts, Washington and Hawaii), and he is struggling mightily in must-win battleground states (Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan). Not exactly a roadmap to success.
3) Flip-Flops. Conventional wisdom keeps predicting that the Republican base, weary of the drawn-out primary season, desperately wants to coronate Romney so the focus can be on Obama. Yet every time another primary rolls around, Convention Wisdom is turned upside down. Why can’t Mitt seal the deal? Because to many, he simply isn’t trustworthy.
Sure, Romneycare makes him wildly unpopular to many Republicans (whose main objection to Obama is Obamacare). But much more unsettling are his flip-flops, too numerous to list in their entirety, but which include abortion, gay rights, guns, government mandates , indexing the minimum wage, the auto and TARP bailouts, and even whether he is a Ronald Reagan fan.
But Romney’s inconsistencies go beyond the policy arena and extend into his personal life, such as the issue of illegal immigrants working at his home. When questioned about that situation, Mitt responded that he fired the landscaping company that employed the immigrants, not because illegals working in the U.S. is wrong, against the law and hurts American citizens, but because, "I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake….I can’t have illegals." Political expediency at its worst.
Mitt Romney embodies an articulate politician without a soul, one who will say whatever it takes to get elected. So prevalent is his flip-flopping that he couldn’t even decide whether to campaign in Iowa.
He’s so out of touch that he doesn’t understand the peoples’ yearning for a leader who stands for something and sticks to his guns. Instead, Romney’s "be all things to all people" approach has him foundering, and should make him easy pickings for Obama in November.
There are those who will say the media is deciding this election, because columns like this are killing Romney’s chances to win before the general election campaign even begins.
While it will be a bitter pill to swallow, those on the Right would be wise to realize two things. The "Anyone But Obama" approach is a losing strategy, since negative premises always produce inferior candidates. And Republicans looking to cast blame for Mitt Romney’s troubles should stop looking for a scapegoat and see the real reason he will flop: Mitt Romney himself.
An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at [email protected]