While Obama Fields Softballs, Romney Plays Smallball
Show me a Republican campaign in which Democrats are offering advice and the Democrats' advice is better, and I'll show you a Republican campaign in trouble.
Democratic political strategist Pat Caddell recently described the Romney campaign as the worst in his lifetime. Being about the same age as Caddell, this writer must, sadly, agree. One can only hope that the Romney camp is assembling a strong grassroots get-out-the-vote effort because the rest of the campaign, with the sole exception of choosing Paul Ryan for the VP slot, has been pathetic. For example, on September 9, Dick Morris, the GOP's Bob Shrum -- useful as a contrary indicator and little else -- blogged enthusiastically about "Romney's Great New Ads." predicting that the ads would "move the numbers" toward Romney. Oddly enough, a week later, the numbers seem to remain pretty much where they were. Purported to be "targeted ads," specially tailored to appeal to various segments of the electorate, in various parts of the country, the only target the "targeted ads" seem to have hit, so far, is the Romney campaign's own foot.
Meanwhile, the savaging of Romney by the press, devastatingly and accurately described by Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds as "Democratic operatives with bylines," continues apace as Obama's stenographers continue to coddle Obama with softball questions (when they are allowed to ask questions at all), while pelting Romney, who does take questions, with everything, including the kitchen sink as well as the rotting vegetables liquefying in the dumpster outside the Safeway down the street.
What is incomprehensible is that the Romney camp must be aware of the mainstream press' bias (read, hatred) against Romney and all things Republican, but apparently has no strategy on how to respond. What is unforgiveable is that such a strategy is both plain to see and easy to implement, as the press itself recently demonstrated when two reporters were caught, on mic, coordinating their questioning of Romney about the Middle East embassy attacks so that Romney would be asked the same question, regardless of which reporter he recognized. For that is a game that two can play. Going forward, Romney should hold as many press conferences as possible, allowing unlimited questioning, on any subject. But he should come to each conference armed with his own talking points and recite them, regardless of the specific question asked. In other words, treat each question (especially for televised conferences) as an opportunity to speak directly to the American people, speak to them and ignore the reporter. To wit:
OBAMA COURT STENOGRAPHER: Mr. Romney, do you consider it appropriate for you to criticize President Obama's foreign policy at a time when an American ambassador was killed...
MITT ROMNEY: You are asking me whether it is appropriate for me to criticize the president's Middle East policy failures at the time that we are suffering, and American embassy personnel are dying, from the effects of those failures. First, for the record, those failures are... [list failures]
As for whether it is appropriate for me to criticize the president for those failures, I would agree with you that it would be manifestly inappropriate for me to criticize the president's policies without proposing better, alternative policies. Here, then, is what I think President Obama should have done and here is what I would do, going forward, and will do if the American People elect me president... [list policy alternatives]
See how easy? This is not rocket science, Mitt Romney is a smart man and, hey, it worked for Reagan (on whom, more later).
And it is hard not to share Caddell's apparent frustration when he laments that:
Republicans have no response mechanism. Hundreds of millions of dollars, they're still not on the air explaining to people that with the labor participation rate, if it was the same as [Obama] came into office, the unemployment would be 11.2%.
Again, the remedy is simple:
OBAMA COURT STENOGRAPHER: Mr. Romney, do you think it's appropriate for you to criticize President Obama's foreign policy at a time when an American ambassador was killed...
MITT ROMNEY: If the labor force participation rate were the same as it was when Obama came into office, the unemployment rate would be 11.2%. Do you think it's appropriate for the press to confront President Obama with that fact and demand, on the behalf of the American people, an explanation?
Again, it's not rocket science, and it's far from the only part of the MSM's deliberately misreported record that Romney needs to correct. How about an ad informing the American people that in the first years of the Bush administration, federal revenues fell every year until 2004, the first year the Bush tax cuts took effect, and then rose every year thereafter, that tax receipts were higher at the end of Bush's tenure than at the beginning and, therefore, the Bush tax cuts' "cost" was zero?
But of course a stool cannot stand on two legs; correcting the press' misreporting of the record and attacking Obama's record are necessary, but insufficient. The final leg is the (for lack of better words) "hope and change": specific descriptions of what Romney will do if he is elected. An obvious example: In his acceptance speech and on the stump, Romney mentions a five-point plan for turning around the country. Why not do a dedicated ad fleshing out each of those five points?
How many of you are aware of a Web site, Economists for Romney, that over 400 independent economists, including six Nobel laureates, have signed a statement supporting Romney's economic plan? Simply scroll the economists' names down the screen as a voiceover quotes from their signed statement. Urge people to visit the Web site. For the third time: It's not rocket science.
Which brings us to the Romney campaign's most glaring omission, to which Caddell alludes when he says about Romney, "He has no message other than 'I'd like to win and by the way I have a secret formula...'" What is missing from the Romney campaign is a Big Idea, an overarching theme that the American people can understand and, one would hope, embrace. Could it be that Romney doesn't have one? Sadly, in Romney's case, to ask the question is to answer it. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, had not one Big Idea, but two: (1) the Soviet Union is an evil empire and (2) government is the problem, not the solution. Substitute "Islamic Jihadists" for "Soviet Union" and both statements would be as true for Romney, today, as they were for Reagan, then. Or they would be if Romney would express them.
Everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, know that this will be an important election, one of the most important ever, an election that will be pivotal to determining who we are and what kind of nation America will be. As in 1980, 2012 will be a Big Idea election. The age of compromise is over. Either their ideas will prevail or ours. How unfortunate that at a moment that cries out for a Ronald Reagan, the only Reaganesque figure in the Republican Party is the vice-presidential candidate, but that's where we are.
Mitt Romney, if he wins, will bring many strengths to the presidency. But, ironically, one of his greatest potential strengths as a president is also one of his most serious liabilities as a candidate. Romney comes from a business, managerial background. He is a day-to-day problem solver. But the most pressing of our problems were long-term in the making and will be long-term in their solving. Nor do these problems arise from an isolated event or even a series of events. They are the result of a series of decisions rooted in a political and social philosophy that Reagan, in his time, understood cannot work, and we that we, in our time, know has not worked. On some level, Mitt Romney understands all this, but apparently he has not thought long and deeply about the core competing philosophies propelling our political debate, as Reagan did. If he has, he has yet to express and explain his vision to the American People.
Mitt Romney is not Ronald Reagan. But that does not mean that he cannot learn from Reagan. Let us hope that he does, because big-government, welfare state liberalism, already headed for the "ash heap of history" in Reagan's time, has failed. We are heading inexorably over the fall and will soon have thrust upon us the herculean task of navigating the most powerful nation ever created through the churning waters below.
At home, we are witnessing the discrediting of the liberals' economic and social philosophies as hiring stagnates, incomes decline, deficits explode, debt mounts, the dollar's value declines and entitlement costs spiral out of control. Beyond our borders, in the EU countries, we see the ongoing implosion of the welfare state. And in the Middle East, we are just beginning to taste the bitter fruits of Obama's naïve and disastrous foreign policy of apologism, "resets," and appeasement.
In short, we are today witnessing complete and utter collapse of the entire liberal worldview. Ronald Reagan was right: Government is, indeed, the problem.
Is it really asking too much for Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, to say so?