Refocus: It's Obama
The best description yet of Mitt Romney was just penned by Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online. Goldberg fancies Romney as "a super-helpful manager at a rental car company." That's on the order of Alice Roosevelt Longworth (Teddy's daughter)'s withering depiction of Thomas E. Dewey (failed GOP presidential nominee in '44 and '48, and Romney's political establishment ancestor) as "The Little Man on the Wedding Cake."
Goldberg was being descriptive, not demeaning like the acid-tongued Alice. Yet for past and present business travelers, particularly, the connection between Romney and the vacuously smilin', very accommodating rental car manager resonates.
Image-wise, grassroots conservatives would prefer a GOP presidential nominee to be a white-hat cowboy on a horse riding the range (remember Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan?), rather than a guy in an emerald-green sleeveless sweater and tan pants scooting around a rental car lot in a golf cart. But in today's postmodern-everything America, perhaps rental car managers are it.
But it doesn't really matter lots about Mitt Romney's image. Assuming Romney capitalizes on his New Hampshire primary performance with similar or better performances in South Carolina and Florida, then Romney's The Man. He'll carry the GOP standard into the 2012 general election. Thanks to a fractured conservative base, Romney's Last Man Standing strategy will have worked like a charm.
For Romney to defeat that disaster named Barack Obama, the presidential sweepstakes needs to be exclusively about the current occupant of the nation's executive mansion -- meaning that grassroots conservatives and their GOP establishment brethren need to join hands and return to the idea that the coming election is a referendum on Mr. Obama. An up-or-down vote on our left-leaning, European socialist-loving chief executive is Romney's ticket to four years of Easter egg-hunts on the White House lawn.
Some variation of Romney's Last Man Standing gambit is what might get him past Barack Obama and into the White House. Perhaps Romney's general election strategy could be termed "Man Still Standing" (that could be Romney's Indian name, too, for any tribe desirous of adopting him).
"Still standing" is apt, because Mr. Obama and his legions from the bowels of the left intend to direct about a billion dollars' worth of heavy fire at the GOP's smilin' car rental manager. The mainstream media, always willing to enable Democrats and the left, will add their heft to the "Get Mitt" offensive. For Romney to win means staying on both feet while being slugged to near senselessness by a very desperate and mean-spirited Mr. Obama and his leftist trolls.
Romney and the right do have a potent counter, however. Romney can't be just the Weeble that wobbles but doesn't fall down and expect to win. As Romney has been doing lately, his focus needs to stay relentlessly on the president and his awful record. Are Americans better off now than they were four years ago? Voters might have some ambiguity about answering that question with an unqualified "yes." But how about answering this question: "Are Americans -- and the nation generally -- worse off than four years ago?" If Rasmussen's right track/wrong track numbers are any indication, the answer to the last question is overwhelmingly "yes."
The key to victory for any candidate isn't playing defense. Muhammad Ali's old Rope-a-Dope routine won't work. Democrats know this well. A candidate plays defense when he has no other choice, and only does so temporarily, while he seeks to employ tactics that put him back on the offensive. Romney needs to satisfy most voters and reassure others that he's competent to perform the job of president and that his proposals move away from Mr. Obama's statist overreach and toward reviving the nation's flagging economy.
Under Romney's emerald-green sweater needs to be a warrior's spirit and -- dare we say -- a taste for blood. Romney has to go after Mr. Obama like a pit bull and, once he clamps down on Mr. Obama's boney wrist or ankle, not let go.
For the coming election, the economy is all-important (unless or until there's a foreign crisis). In fact, the economy is the driver throughout the 2012 election cycle. Romney needs to awaken mornings thinking about what he's going to say about the economy, talk about it all day long on the campaign trail, and go to bed at night thinking -- you guessed it -- about the economy and his next angle to convince voters that four more years of the dour Mr. Obama is a catastrophe in the making.
In an interview with the Fox and Friends crew on Wednesday morning, Romney was asked if falling unemployment figures bode ill for his efforts to make the economy the centerpiece of his campaign against Mr. Obama. Romney answered rightly that more Americans finding jobs are a welcome development. Moving forward, though, Romney needs to pivot hard when asked that question; he needs to challenge the validity of the jobs stats proffered. The numbers are cooked to the benefit of Mr. Obama and faithfully regurgitated by the fossil media to boost the president's reelection chance. Romney needs to stand up for the underemployed and the given-up unemployed.
But the perception of an improving economy, however slight and misleading, undercuts Romney's arguments about the economy, you say? Romney certainly can't buck perceptions entirely, but he and the right will need to attempt to shape and direct those perceptions. Romney could say that any improvements in the economy are the result of the extraordinary efforts of entrepreneurs and businessmen and women who are acting in the face of a president whose policies are unremittingly hostile. Giving Barack Obama a lame-duck term will not only continue those hostile policies, but open the door to worse policies, which risk greater economic trouble.
Romney should play the lame duck theme about Mr. Obama continuously. "Imagine," Romney should say to audiences, "giving Barack Obama four more years in the White House with nothing to lose." And then Romney could supplement his scenario with a litany of Mr. Obama's harmful policies. Just paint the picture for voters, Mitt.
For Romney to win the White House and the GOP to capture the Senate (holding the U.S. House seems probable), this election boils down to voters rejecting Mr. Obama and feeling comfortable enough with Mitt Romney. All voters want from Romney is for him to rent them a car that goes in the right direction and gets them to their destination. Upgrades aren't required.