Friday, September 14, 2012

The Shrinking Candidate

Familiarity breeds contempt. That's the saying, right?

It would seem to fit Mitt Romney like a glove.

For the second political race in a row, voters are drifting away from the Republican presidential candidate the more they get to know him, or at least see him in action.

It happened in the GOP primary, where Romney had difficulty putting away Rick Santorum, who was as far right of a candidate as has run in recent memory.

Polls indicated that the more primary voters got to know Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, the less enamored they were with him.

The same thing is happening now, in Romney's race against President Obama.

Romney suffered a double whammy in the past two weeks: the Democratic convention with its stirring speeches, and his big mouth in the wake of the Libyan crisis.

The former provided Obama with an expected (though maybe larger than expected) bounce, and the latter gave the country a sneak peek into what kind of man might occupy the Oval Office, should Romney win.

"Governor Romney tends to shoot first and aim later," the president told 60 Minutes in an interview to air this Sunday. I don't know whether the line was Obama's or was written for him. Regardless, it captured, in nine words, how not to be president while simultaneously painting Romney as someone you wouldn't want as president.

The latest Gallup Poll has Obama leading, 50-44, and even Fox News concurs, giving the president a 48-43 lead in its latest poll. This is a departure from before the conventions, when Romney was nipping at Obama's heels, staying within two points in most polls.

But the contrast in conventions, plus Romney's ham-handed criticism of the administration to the violence in Libya before he had all the facts, have wobbled him.

And this before the three debates, which are likely to even further define the fitness of the incumbent over the challenger in terms of who is more presidential and who is the best leader.

Obama is even leading Romney in who can handle the economy better, and has a sizable lead with women and in the question of who is a more decisive leader.

These trends are proportional, almost directly, to the growing familiarity voters are getting with Romney---particularly those who weren't paying much attention to the GOP primaries.



The governor's steadfast refusal to reveal details of his budget and tax plan isn't helping him, either. Neither is running mate Paul Ryan, who was theoretically chosen to give the ticket a boost but who has mostly played Charlie McCarthy to Romney's Edgar Bergen.

The Romney campaign has had a rough couple of weeks, but all presidential campaigns have tough stretches. Even Obama, in his race against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008, had his less-than-stellar moments and hurdles to clear.

Romney's ability to rebound from his hoof-in-mouth disease and apparent disconnect with the electorate is being tested now like never before. His political track record doesn't really give any examples of when he's been able to do it.

Shoot first, aim later.

That is a tag that will follow Romney to the voting booths on November 6, like a piece of toilet paper stuck to his shoe.



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