The homestretch of the campaign season has now been reduced to waiting for the real Mitt to show up, and more to point, if the real Mitt shows up. The number of wasted opportunities for Romney to have made strong statements about the Middle East debacle, the recent economic numbers, and frame each in the context of an overall picture, will haunt his campaign long after its over.
Romney came alive after the President's "you didn't build that" gaffe. As a businessman, he recognized the importance of that line, and you could hear and feel the passion in his voice. But with other gaffes, such as the latest "bumps in the road," he's been remarkably lame. Instead of large, sweeping statements, Charles Krauthammer in his most recent column is right, Romney's statements have been merely tit-for-tat, and those tits and tats are rolling off people.
A national media publication had an article earlier in the campaign season regarding the George Romney gaffe of being "brainwashed" about the Vietnam War. That gaffe played a large role in costing Romney the Republican nomination. The article further elucidated on the effect that loss had on Mitt, which implies the reason Mitt is playing it safe. However, safe does not win elections.
The Obama re-election campaign has painted Mitt as a man who "can't relate" to us ordinary folks. Unfortunately, this writer is beginning to wonder if that statement isn't a little bit true. Romney's campaign slogan, "believe in America" is something us ordinaries do every day, and and is the reason we can't stomach the possibility of another four years of Obama. We understand only too well what he's done to this country and what lies ahead if he's elected to another term.
If Romney understands us, our angst, our hopes and dreams, and our fears for another Obama term, then perhaps we'd see a different Romney on the campaign trail. We'd see a purposeful candidate who paints his rhetoric with a broad brush, putting into context how Obama's foreign policy is a debacle for America, who calls Obama out for patently lying to the American people about Libya, who holds up a Netanyahu-style white board (and gives one to Ryan) to show people graphically the dire straits we're in, and how he can right the course.
Peggy Noonan has been brutal in her columns, Bill Kristol equally so. Daniel Henninger in his Wall Street Journal column wrote about politicians who carry loyalties too far at the expense of their campaigns and the people who support and believe in them. As for Romney's tin ear, as in "my campaign does not need a turnaround," he's been running for CEO-in-Chief, not Commander-in-Chief. The question is, will he wake up in time? There are tens of thousands of people who have shown up to Romney rallies, waiting to hear not only the "take it to Obama" rhetoric, but why Romney is uniquely qualified in these troubled times. Romney should replay "you didn't build that," campaign in front of Solyndra or in front of a closed auto dealer, an unemployment office, a home with a foreclosed sign. Get the point across visually, graphically.
People don't want to settle, and are yearning for a real leader. If Romney is that leader, now's the time for him to show it convincingly. He shouldn't wait for the debates, he should be carrying the confidence, the stature and the rhetoric beforehand. Put Obama on the defensive before the debates start. And if he does not, then Romney supporters will be waiting and wondering which Mitt will show up, the Mitt of Florida or the Mitt of the last two weeks. If the latter, then epitaphs rather than victory statements, will be written.