I had to.
Mandi depressed me yesterday, largely because of her astute analysis in culling out the most likely reasons that Obama would lose.
But the debate last night reinforced for me the many ways I think Romney is a weak candidate (even though it's possible he is still the strongest candidate the Republicans had this year). And yes, I've already talked about 3 reasons why Romney DESERVES to lose, and 3 ways he is worse than W. But those are different questions.
1. Romney Chose to Run a Choice Election. In the Beginning, this was going to be a Change election, based on a single question: Are you better off than you were four years ago? See, e.g. this guy:
But Romney veered away from that course, and rather than sticking with the generic "I'm a bidnessman who looks like a president" case for a Romney Presidency, Romney talked about his own ideas. He mentioned the Change concept every once in awhile, but he spent a lot of time alluding to substantive ways in which he is "better" than the President. Romney chose a running mate who has Ideas, and spent a lot of time talking about how those Ideas were part of why Romney chose Ryan. Yes, those ideas are largely unpopular, but what's more important in this context is the fact that in choosing Ryan, Romney took a ton of attention away from the president and essentially made a case for a very different path for the country. That's choosing a Choice election.
2. Romney Is an Impulsive, Inconsistent Campaigner. Romney decides, often rashly, to try to "take advantage" of what he sees as opportunities - but he fails to prepare well to capitalize on those opportunities. Libya has shown this problem in a nutshell:
- Romney promised not to attack the President on 9/11.
- Romney attacks the President, on 9/11. He is seemingly so eager that while he first embargoes the attack for the press, he then is maybe afraid that he won't be the first to criticize the President, so he lifts the embargo, breaking his own promise.
- In his criticism of the President, he is wrong. Rather than, as many Republicans suggested, waiting a few days to determine the facts on the ground and trusting that indeed, there would still be something to legitimately criticize, Romney barges in half-cocked and appears desperate, giving the President the opportunity to appear presidential.
- THEN Republicans and the press develop a viable series of questions for the President. Meanwhile, on Fox, they harp on the timing of when exactly the President uses certain words. As per usual, Fox doesn't bother fact-checking. Guess which line of attacks Romney pursues at a debate?
- When the debate performance is poorly received, Romney's campaign attacks the moderator.
- Finally, Romney is left to spend much of yesterday's debate parroting the President on foreign policy, but implying that whatever the President does, Romney would do... to 11.
Romney has had similar moments on women, taxes, and many other issues. Some have said this is about his campaign being dysfunctional. But as the Decider of his campaign, that's a Romney problem.
If Romney loses, it will be against a president who has some awful facts on the ground. Conventional Wisdom says that at the end of the day a reelection campaign is about a referendum on the sitting president. But Romney has to present a viable option. Between his tendency to equivocate and his general lack of empathy, Romney has presented himself as a fairly untrustworthy guy. If he loses, a big part of that decision in the voting booth will be: do I want four years of Romney?
Well, do you, America?