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On Humanizing Mitt

In the run up to the Republican Convention I’ve been hearing a lot of talk from political operatives on both sides about the convention being the last and best opportunity for Mitt Romney to humanize himself and connect with voters. Everyone that hits the screen on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN all agree that this should be priority number one for the Republicans and the Romney campaign. It’s a sharp turn from the previous tone of the Romney campaign, which has been to talk about the economy, the economy, and nothing but the economy, belittling any other topic as President Obama’s effort to pivot away from his record and focus on unimportant issues. But with poll after poll showing that Romney doesn’t connect, the campaign has decided to shore up that “connectivity/likability” weakness. Far be it from me to disagree with seemingly every political operative out there, but it sounds like a big mistake to me.

The effort to humanize Romney and to build a connection to people got an early start with an assist from the weekly news magazine show Fox News Sunday when they invited Chris Wallace into their home. The piece, titled “At Home with the Romneys,” was introduced this way: “One of Mitt Romney’s biggest problems is the perception pushed by the Obama campaign he is out of touch and doesn’t understand what many American families are going through. Earlier this week, the Romneys invited us to their New Hampshire vacation spot, opening their home to cameras for the first time in this campaign.”

To me, that lends the distinct impression that this video is meant to help correct this problem, putting the people more “in touch” with the Romneys. You can watch the video for yourself, but if the effort to show that the real Mitt Romney can connect with and understand the typical American starts with a trip to their vacation home that is described to look much like a summer camp, you might imagine that effort could fall severely short. Wallace makes sure to notice that the Romneys don’t have maids or a chef at their vacation home–quite a connectable trait, right?

Whether it be a look inside the Romneys’ marriage and family or a stale sense of humor leading to failed joke deliveries, Romney’s life and experience are unlikely to relate to common Americans, no matter how it’s dressed up. The old adage that people want “a guy you’d like to share a beer with” doesn’t work when the candidate religiously abstains from alcohol. (Not saying that a sober president can’t be relatable; just that this one, clearly, is not.) In going out of their way to emphasize Mitt Romney the human being, the campaign risks getting off of message and playing to their opponents’ strengths. Barack Obama is just more relatable and more likable (according to polls) than Mitt Romney. If these two weeks of conventions are dedicated to highlighting their personalities, Mitt Romney may run the risk of a post-convention dip in the polls, instead of the traditional/expected convention bump.

Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. August 31, 2012 at 9:55 am

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