Gov. Mitt Romney is laboring under the mistaken impression that voters want a good technician to fix the economy. He’s wrong. They want a good technician to fix their car. They need to like and look up to their president.
And you know what? It helps to like your car mechanic too. I’ll probably bring my car back to a guy I like who’s competent even if the hose he just fixed burst forth a geyser of coolant.
In pre-convention “curtain raiser” interviews running today in USA Today and Politico, Romney declares that likability and an intimate knowledge of his persona are not what voters crave.
From the USA Today piece:
During the daytime program, he says, there will be “a series of vignettes, so people who attend the convention will get to know me a little better,” but outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, only a devoted C-SPAN viewer will see them. During prime time in the evening, when the broadcast networks are carrying the proceedings and millions of Americans tune in, “we won’t be talking about my life,” he says. “We’ll be talking about policy.”
Ever the business analyst, Romney says it’s more important to make a convincing argument than to put forward a charismatic persona, and that’s what he aims to do. “By and large, this is a campaign about big ideas and a very dramatic choice that America is about to make,” he says.
Well, all of that’s true, but we also need to hear about your life. The failure to discuss this in prime time means nobody will hear about it.
This is the Michael Dukakis approach. As some of you may remember, Dukakis in 1992 was selling “competence.” It bought him a footnote in history.
Dukakis needed to take this approach because he was a fussy and annoying character who seemed like he might get peevish if you contradicted his theory about the value of a good breakfast.
Romney seems perfectly likable and has had a compelling life. He has a record of achievement and experience that far exceeds what President Obama brought to the office. Why not tell us all about it?
In the Politico interview, Romney repeated Popeye’s “I am who I am” line three times for his interlocutors. That’s fine, nobody’s asking Romney to pretend to be Bill Clinton. But they need to have a connection with him.
Why is this such a strange concept to someone who purports to be all about leadership? There’s nothing inauthentic about telling us about yourself.
Romney’s position as a CEO was somewhat unique. Most corporate chieftains are part executive, and part public relations guru. They have to sell their product and their company to the public.
At Bain Capital, Romney wasn’t selling anything. Have you driven a Bain, or used a Bain in your kitchen? No. Bain was merely an entity for taking over failing companies and making them profitable. Romney worked logistics and massaged investors and other corporate types behind the scenes. But he didn’t have to let his hair down in public.
That has to change, at least a little.
Romney doesn’t have to mimic the narcissism of penning two autobiographies and then hurling himself onto the public stage as the Prophet of False Promises.
But if he thinks people only need to love his policies, he’s wrong.