Monday, October 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

It's the Campaign, Stupid!

Romney's campaign is shaping up to be the worst in memory. It's that and not Obama's job performance, record or leadership skills that driving Mitt's drop in polls.

It's the Campaign, Stupid!

I really don't want to pile on Mitt while his run continues a downward spiral, but his campaign is shaping up as among the worst in memory.

He is, after all, running against an incumbent who failed a pledge to cut the deficit in half, who faces foreign policy fires abroad, including a growing crisis over a nuclear Iran, and who famously, though somewhat awkwardly, said in 2009 with regard to fixing the economy, "If I dont have this done in three years, then there's going to be a one-term proposition."

And yet, where are we?

Daily tracking by Gallup now shows the president with six-point lead (50-44) nationally in a race that for so long was a virtual tie. And this comes as poll after poll shows widening leads for Obama in states such as Florida and Ohio that are critical to the Electoral College vote total needed to win the presidency.

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It's not that the economy got better or that governance improved or that the unemployed got jobs or that Obama, as pledged, change the ways Washington.

It's that Romney's campaign is horrible. It consistently allows the Obama camp and the media to direct the narrative -- Mitt's money, Mitt's tax returns, Mitt's wife's horse, Mitt's corporate past, Mitt's personal awkwardness, Mitt's GOP pals talking about "legitmate rape," Mitt's Clint Eastwood, etc. -- instead of staying on and riding hard the message of fixing the economy.

From the start, right after sewing up the GOP nomination, Romney allowed Obama to define him as an uncaring corporate raider who hides his wealth in foreign investments. It wasn't until the mostly-botched Republican convention that Romney even tried to humanize himself with stories of his family and faith.

Then, in what might well be the moment most remembered from campaign 2012, he reinforces the Obama campaign's portrayal with that 47-percent remark. And while I assume when he said, "My job is not to worry about those people," he was talking politically, meaning his campaign needs to attract the other 53-percent, there's no escaping the damage done by the next sentence: "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Worse, just as there was no good Romney campaign answer to the early Obama efforts to define Mitt, there was no good response to the 47-percent comments. Mitt saying it "was not elegantly stated" didn't stop a week-long torrent of criticism and campaign free-fall.

Then, nine days later, Romney's campaign released a new ad, "Too Many Americans," with Mitt speaking directly into the camera. It's good. It talks about poverty growth, the increase in folks on food stamps, the promise to enact policies to create jobs. And it says "compassion" shouldn't be measured by the number of people on welfare but by getting people off welfare and into jobs. It ends with Mitt saying, "We can't afford another four years like the last four years.

You can see the ad here.

Problem is, just like earlier in the campaign season, it comes after the damage is done. It's another example of the Romney camp apparently being tone-deaf to what plays well politically and what hurts its candidate directly.

Obama's not winning. Romney's losing. And it's because of his stupid campaign.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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