Romney Advisors: Election Will Be About Competence on Economy Not Coolness

It sounds as if presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s camp has given up on trying to make him more likeable and made the argument that is logical but has often not worked in American politics:

It’s not about personality, likeability. It’s all about issues. In this case, the economy. It doesn’t sound like they will try to make Romney seem “cool” (which probably means their ads will try to make Obama look uncool and supremely arrogant):

Focusing tightly on their campaign’s economy-first message, a pair of Mitt Romney’s top advisers on Saturday dismissed recent efforts by the president to reach out to younger voters and the so-called “likability gap” between President Barack Obama and the presumptive GOP nominee with a simple argument: The 2012 election is not a popularity contest.

“This election is not going to be about who’s cooler,” Romney senior adviser Peter Flaherty said at a Washington Post Live Newsmaker Forum. “The question is going to be, who do you trust to run the economy?”

Eric Fehrnstrom, another top Romney adviser, also criticized Obama for his appearance earlier this week on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” on the University of North Carolina campus, where the president “Slow Jammed the News.” Fehrnstrom said the president’s performace was “off key,” and showed inappropriate levity about an issue – the possible doubling of student loan interest rates – that deserved to be taken more seriously.

“You won’t see the governor slow jam the news,” Fehrnstrom said, not discounting the possibility Romney could appear on more late-night talk shows or even “Saturday Night Live,” thanks to the ability of those shows to reach voters who normally don’t follow politics as closely.

And while Fehrnstrom predicted Americans would “fall in love with” Ann and Mitt Romney as the election progressed, the advisers’ downplaying of personal popularity in favor of an economic-competency argument is consistent with Romney’s own recent comments on the stump.

“Even if you like Barack Obama, we can’t afford Barack Obama,” Romney said at a campaign event in North Carolina on Wednesday.

Some thoughts:

  • It would be refreshing and admirable if a Presidential campaign of either party made it ALL about issues and our election were decided totally that way. Not gonna happen.
  • If Romney focused like a laser on the economy and the economic very slowly recovered or got worse it could work. But that would assume a serious discussion. No sound bytes that sound like they were copied from Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. No statistics that turn out to be twisted or false by the news media or bloggers. No assertions that even a head of lettuce know don’t hold up (so Mitt Romney was the guy behind the auto bailout – all his idea, right?) and would cause the celery to laugh as well. It would mean a serious discussion. That means offering IN DETAIL alternative plans — not just attacking the current administration’s plans or efforts. Buffets are always popular.
  • Some voters are thirsting for a better way to do things. But just attacking Obama and suggesting it’s class warefare (which has a long tradition in American politics) or pretending that the administration of George W. Bush didn’t have a thing to do with the economic mess won’t do it.
  • The expected sea of negative ads will create a mental tug of war in some voters minds as they see Obama in press conferences, in debates, and clips of his campaign appearances. Even on Fox News last night as Obama’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner comedy set was run some Tweets expressed amazement that he could be so funny (of course he like other Presidents had a..ahem..little help at this dinner by a comedy writer).
  • Prediction: Romney will indeed do a late night shows and Saturday night live and maybe a daytime show (will he be on The View?). His advisors are already lowering expectations about how he’ll compare to Obama. Meanwhile, his campaign and/or Super PACS campaign will run ads to try and show him not likeable but “too cool.” If Obama’s plus is he’s cool they will — as Republicans successful do — try and turn that into a negative.

    Could it work? Only if coupled with a truly serious and accurate alternate program of what Romney would do. It’s likely to be a close race but if you look at American political history the more likeable (even if the likeability was a well-pulled off sham) person has usually won…like it or not.

    Meanwhile, now Obama reportedly has Bill Clinton (with his high poll numbers) out there working for his re-election.

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    • zephyr

      People appreciate having a president with a healthy sense of humor, just as they appreciate having a president who can speak coherently in complete sentences. Those abilities are hardly incompatible with being a competent president.

      “The question is going to be, who do you trust to run the economy?””

      A fair question to be sure. Do you trust the party who presided over the fall of the economy.. or the party that’s tried the hardest to pull us out of the dive?

    • DaGoat

      It doesn’t sound like they will try to make Romney seem “cool” (which probably means their ads will try to make Obama look uncool and supremely arrogant)

      This had to happen eventually since there is no way Romney can compete with Obama on the cool factor. I don’t think they will give up on making Romney look more likeable, more likely they will emphasize policy and ability over personality. There’s a good chance they will take the approach that voting for the more boring but able politician is better than automatically voting for the cool BMOC.

      Trouble is, Romney has to show that his policies and abilities are actually better than Obama’s. I don’t think he has done that very well. I don’t like Obama, but so far Romney really hasn’t given me much reason to vote for him either.

    • dduck

      Cool is great, but a short attention span trumps cool. Some of the people who voted for O before, are saying WTF, is that all there is? While some others may stay home and and watch the latest reality show on TV instead of voting- they didn’t get their instant gratification.

    • slamfu

      Mitt Romney doesn’t really have an economic plan of his own. He has the GOP plan, which is to cut taxes and deregulate, which was done before and was a failure. He’s not offering up anything that Bush didn’t try so if he is basing this campaign on having the better economic plan that’s going to be a hard sell.

    • dduck

      Slam, Obama’s only plan is to raise $48 billion over ten years- the Buffet Rule.

    • zephyr

      OK then, so what do you do? Vote for the guy who subscribes to failed policies or the guy who isn’t pulling us out of them fast enough? In any lesser of evils scenario we go with the lesser eh?

    • dduck

      Z, “failed policies”. What were those again?
      I go with the party that seems to want to hold back our national debt a little.