We’re off and running with Obama/Biden vs. Romney/Ryan for the 2012 presidential election. Given the cast of characters, this three month journey promises to be a wild ride filled with exciting twists, turns, scandals and crap so bizarre there is no way to predict it.
On one side, we have Mitt Romney, an accomplished corporate manager and former governor with the people skills necessary to manage large, diverse teams in widespread locations. He’s good with numbers and sees the “big picture” with a senior executive’s vision. He’s supported by Paul Ryan, a charismatic and experienced House member with the unique ability to verbalize with passion the mountains of dry facts and figures that accompany any major legislative initiative. Ryan has already gone toe-to-toe with President Obama, pointing out the double counting and other mechanical flaws of the Obamacare bill, which the President met with a blank stare reminiscent of the “so what?” response Bill Clinton gave when the facts finally came out regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
On the other side, we have President Barack Obama, himself a charismatic figure who served briefly as an elected representative in Illinois, then in the federal Senate, then promised hope and change in 2008 with few details about how that change would come about. He’s supported by Vice President Joe Biden, an east coast lawyer and the ultimate Washington insider. His claim to fame appears to be frequent verbal gaffes that anyone with his folksy personality would be likely to make if given enough opportunities.
Just as these adversaries can be defined by their differences in personal style and political objectives, they are also very different in the way they are likely to approach generating excitement – and votes – for their tickets. The Obama team appeals to the masses with a passion that some say equals Argentina’s populist leader Juan Peron. His ability to whip up an
emotional response to his rhetoric – sometimes resulting in fainting spells by ladies in the front row – is legendary. He’s usually short on details, but paints a vivid picture of the problems faced by American workers. On the other side, Mitt Romney speaks with a muted passion that seems heartfelt, but sounds more cautious and mechanical. For those believing that Ryan will add fire to Romney’s persona – don’t hold your breath. Though he presents well, he ultimately comes back to facts and figures to make his points. Therein lays the potential downfall of the Romney/Ryan ticket.
In 2008 Obama faced one of the most beloved politicians of our time, John McCain. McCain was a true war hero and respected statesman who I met personally in San Diego at the 1996 GOP convention. Senator McCain had it all – background, experience, skills. Yet he was unable to overcome the emotional hatred directed at his predecessor, George Bush, who Obama successfully demonized and blamed for America’s problems. And Obama did this with almost pure emotion and very few facts and figures.
So, how do we view the current match-up based on what was learned in 2008? In the end, swing voters will gravitate to the candidate who fulfills them emotionally. These voters have no idea if the facts and figures presented by politicians are anywhere near accurate. In fact, coming from politicians, that information is almost surely either discounted or outright rejected. Hope and change energized the Democrat base and non-aligned voters because it convinced them that any change was better than what they already had under the GOP.
If Romney/Ryan can’t affect an emotional response that makes voters FEEL confident that their strategy for America will make voter’s lives better, they might as well throw in the towel now. Winning is about gaining trust and support, not just proving a point. Dry and questionable facts and figures will whiz right over the voter’s heads as they pull the lever for Obama.
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