Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Challenge of Being Likable

Politico Arena Topic: Was Ann Romney's Convention Speech a Game-Changer?

Ann Romney’s speech highlighted what we already knew—that she is a decent speaker who could potentially play the role of first lady effectively. The speech was by no means a “game changer” however. The most important speech of the convention has yet to happen. Mitt Romney’s speech will be the most watched, observed, and dissected speech at the GOP convention. Like any nominee trying to knock off an incumbent president, Governor Romney must demonstrate that he offers a different and better vision for America than the current president. He must convince wavering independents and Obama supporters from 2008 who are having buyer’s remorse to come to the Republican side. His task is made more difficult by the hard right stances of the Republican Party platform and utterances of GOP office holders and candidates in recent weeks that have received such negative publicity with the potential to turn off moderates and many women. Romney’s own sprint to the right during the GOP nomination process and his selection of running mate Paul Ryan with his unwavering social conservatism no doubt complicate this process.

Perhaps most challenging for Romney is that he must connect with the average American. The likeability gap between President Obama and Governor Romney is very real—he must close that gap as much as possible if he is to win the election. Americans prefer to cast a vote for someone they like. A candidate perceived as aloof and not being able to identify with the middle class of the country will struggle in the end. So Mitt Romney’s biggest challenge is to achieve what Ann Romney attempted to do last night—to convince America that despite his privileged upbringing and sheltered life, he can identify with the hopes, dreams, challenges, and struggles of everyday Americans. Perhaps most importantly, he must demonstrate that he actually cares about those same people.

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