What’s the first thing people think about when someone mentions Mitt Romney? It seems to be something along the lines of he has great hair and is generally considered to be a nice guy. He may be the nicest guy in the world, but kindness doesn’t stop rogue regimes from committing acts of war; bold words backed up by action do. And that precisely is Mitt Romney’s problem- his messaging is virtually nonexistent. Considering how close the election and debates are, this is a serious problem. Romney’s favorite ice cream flavor may be vanilla, but to win this election, he must be anything but. And he needs to start doing that immediately.
Of the many things Barack Obama can be accused of, blandness is not one of them. After running on the promise of change, he delivered. From day one, he’s been clear about his policy goals, and for the most part has accomplished them. And he stands by his policies.
Does Mitt Romney have any policies? Yes, but do most voters know what they are? And why isn’t he articulating them in his television appearances and ads? Yes, this election is a referendum on Obama’s policies. But a referendum is only effective if an opponent provides a clear contrast; a choice. How can Americans make a choice if they’re unsure about what the opposition plans to do once he gains office?
To see how much Romney’s murky message has hurt his campaign one need look no further than polling on the economy, the biggest issue of the election. Romney is a highly successful business owner. Obama was a community organizer, and since assuming the presidency has had 43 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent. Logically, based on past experience, Americans should trust Romney to handle the economy. Yet, Romney leads by a slim margin. Why? We know Obama’s plan- a combination of raising taxes on the wealthy and various government investments to jump-start the economy.
So far, Mitt Romney’s platform for spurring economic growth consists of an 87 page long, 59 point plan. What average, working American with a family has time to read that? Chances are, not very many. No wonder Mitt Romney has such a slim advantage over Obama in polling cataloguing trust in handle the economy. How can you trust someone if they don’t tell you what they’re going to do?
And if Mitt Romney really wants the full support of conservatives, who are still highly suspicious of him, he needs to stand for something. He can’t give speeches after momentous healthcare legislation is upheld by the Supreme Court and make milk toast speeches about repealing but replacing some aspects of that legislation. He can’t speak in generic, politically correct platitudes. He can’t be afraid of offending some special interest group- they’re going to find something to be offended about. The same holds true if he really wants to bring moderate and swing voters into the 2012 Republican fold. He needs to be himself- advance the policies he believes will benefit the country and stick by them.
In the end, most Americans understand they’re not going to agree with everything a candidate stands for, but character matters. For the most part, Americans would rather hear a strong advocate for something they disagree with than the incoherent question-dodging of politicians hoping to avoid saying something real and in doing so dissuade someone from voting for them. Americans are not that easily fooled, and don’t like being treated as if they are.
That’s why Romney needs to actually start standing up for something, anything. He comes across as distant from the American people because by attempting to appease various voting blocks his character is lost and ends up standing for nothing. And all the money in the world can’t buy enough 30-second ad spots to make up for this. Only Mitt Romney, the real Mitt Romney, can do that.