As Emily noted yesterday, Mitt Romney's campaign appears to be foundering, much earlier in the election cycle than normal. The polls generally agree that Mitt is following further behind. In purely anecdotal ways I can also tell that many people feel that defeat for the Republicans is nigh. My conservative friends and family have stopped posting about the presidential race on Facebook. In some cases they have given up talking about the election until after it is already over. In contrast, most of my more liberal friends have been in full political frenzy, sharing posts, photos, and writing screeds for Obama. Even some of my less politically engaged liberal friends have been doing this. So the outlook seems gloomy for Mitt. But I think it is very premature for Obama supporters to start celebrating a victory party quite yet. Mitt still isn't that far behind in some polls. And given the nature of politics in the United States, he still has plenty of time for a comeback. Follow me below the fold to see how Mitt can still win this thing...
As many of you have doubtless heard, Romney recently got into trouble lately for saying this:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax....[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
The Romney campaign has to make the 47% turn on each other. Luckily, the Republican party has a great history of doing this. Even as they are part of the 47%, members of the 47% take a great deal of pleasure talking down to each other. Americans like feeling morally superior to each other, even if we are very hypocritical about it (see e.g. the only moral abortion is my abortion). Instead of uniting the 47% percent against him, Romney really only has to employ a divide and conquer strategy, suggesting that it is good for some Americans not to pay taxes, while other people who don't pay taxes are moochers. People can then feel virtuous about actively hurting their own interests, just to spite someone else they feel is less deserving.
Romney can hope that the actual voter turnout favors him. While United States demographics are actually against the traditional base that Republicans rely on, Republicans have been craftily finding a way around that problem, by making sure that their base are the ones who get to vote, and suppressing the right for others to vote. They have been dealt a recent setback in Pennsylvania, but there is little doubt that Republicans have strategies to ensure that only the "right kind of people" vote in elections.
Romney needs to make voters like him and trust him. Unfortunately Romney has very little charisma or charm. He seems to offend people wherever he goes, often by making fun of how poor they are, or insulting their efforts at making something. He is sometimes cluelessly condescending. In this, Romney could perhaps take a page out of Obama's playbook.
Romney can make fun of himself. Obama has often been accused of being cold, distant, and remote, but then you see him go on Ellen and attempt to dance (Michelle is the much better dancer of the Obama family btw), and you are reminded that this is a person who is capable of laughing at himself, an appealing quality to have. Romney can do very much the same. A Mr. Roboto sketch on Saturday Night Live? A sing-off challenge with Leno? Have Paul Ryan challenge Fallon to a fitness workout? Whatever it is, the Romney campaign has to find some way to have the average voter relate to the candidates. People tend to vote for politicians that they like.
Last but not least, Romney could release his taxes. The more Romney dithers on this, the more it seems as if he had something to hide. If Romney has required a decade's worth of tax returns from his vice-presidential contenders, why wouldn't he think the American public would want the same kind of information? Maybe what he is hiding in those tax returns is innocuous. Maybe as it turns out, he was overtithing the Mormon church, and felt embarrassed. Or maybe it turns out that Romney is actually part of the 47%, and has paid no taxes in the last few years. Wouldn't that be ironic?