Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Romney Likability Gap

It should not come as a surprise, but Mitt Romney has a likability gap.

A recent Pew poll showed that around half of registered voters consider Barack Obama likable while around half consider Mitt Romney unlikable. Link here.

Several explanations offer themselves. The Obama attack machine has been scoring hits on Romney. The mainstream media has become an arm of the Obama campaign and presents the attacks as gospel truth. Many people simply do not know Mitt Romney well enough to form an opinion so they tend to latch on to whatever seems like the conventional wisdom.

There is one more possible reason: Mitt Romney is just not very likable.

Perhaps people remember the primary campaign. Perhaps they recall Romney’s ruthless attacks on his fellow Republicans, his scorched earth tactics. If that’s the way you treat your friends, how do you treat people who are not your friends?

Romney seemed to count on the fact that he could behave any which way in the primary and that Republicans would be forced to rally to him because they want so badly to defeat Barack Obama.

He did not consider that half-hearted support does not increase your likability. It looks as though the people supporting you are swallowing a bitter pill, not that they are happy to be on your side.

One needs to consider that spurious, specious and slanderous charges are more likely to stick when people don’t have a very good feeling for the candidate in the first place.

Serious political analysts insist that these attacks need to be answered, straightforwardly and forthrightly.

Romney understands this, yet he has chosen as a spokesman someone who is even less likeable than he is, John Sununu.

How many Republicans are going to thrill to the knowledge that the man who helped put David Souter on the Supreme Court has returned from the political dead to represent Mitt Romney.

But still, how can the American people not like Mitt Romney? He has lived a picture-perfect life: he has a loving wife and family; he has achieved significant business success; he is rich and famous.

How is it possible that people do not like such an exemplary human being? If he had had three wives we would understand, but he has the perfect family life and is virtuous to a fault… what’s not to like?

For my part I do not think that Romney is suffering because he has an empathy deficit.

Surely, a moderately savvy political advisor could help Romney to explain to the people that it’s better to have a president who can solve your problems than a president who can feel the pain he is inflicting by not solving your problems.

If I may be so bold, Romney’s problem is not his persona or his personality. It lies in the fact that no one knows what he stands for. No one knows what policies he would use to guide his presidency.

Romney is not running on his record as governor of Massachusetts because his signature achievement, Romneycare is barely distinguishable from Obamacare.

He is running on competence, but competence is not a policy. Worse yet, he is running on being Mitt Romney. The American people want someone who is going to work for them, not someone who thinks that he is honoring them by his presence. 

As I see it, Mitt Romney looks and sounds too much like a robo-candidate, someone who says what he needs to say in order to win.

In the end you do not know what a robo-candidate really believes in. You do not know how he will govern.

If he refuses to tell you, or worse, does not know how he would govern, then he is showing contempt for the electorate. Such an attitude is not very likable.

Romney needs to let people know his political philosophy. He needs to say where he stands on important economic issues.

There must be more to his campaign than Mitt Romney’s business record. After all, the federal government is not a business and the president is not a private equity investor.

If voters believe that Mitt Romney is so arrogant and cynical that he has not thought through what the job is and what it entails, they might end up voting for him and the lesser of two evils, but they will not be rallying to his cause or affirming his agenda.


The Dark Lord said...

so are all of your friends gregarious, life of the party types ? really ?

Why is your assumption that only people who actively seek your approval likeable ?

Have you actually watched a Romney speech ?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

actually, all my friends are gregarious, but that is not the issue here.

Polling shows that Romney is not very well liked. I was trying to offer some explanations for why that might be the case and how he might go about correcting it.

That feels like a constructive approach.

I have seen some very good Romney speeches... and I have mentioned them here. But if he gives good speeches and is still not very well liked, then the cause must lie elsewhere, don't you think?

Otherwise you have to portray him as the victim of a media conspiracy. Surely, the media is aligned against him, but the media was also aligned against the Tea Party. It demonized the Tea Party every hour of every day. Somehow the Tea Party managed to overcome the campaign of vilification... because everyone know what its policies were.

Thank you for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Not a Sununu fan, but really like how he has not backed up one inch when dealing with the MSM. I can learn to appreciate him a lot. As for Romney, I will vote, support, and even work for someone who may cut off my arm vice someone (Onot) who “WILL” cut off my head with a chainsaw (read this comparison elsewhere).
Romney ads are good and effective. However he has to begin countering some of the most damaging ads by Onot. Still, non-political people will vote their pocketbook/wallet this November just as they did with Clinton and Reagan – both were blessed by economies running well. Plus some of the people I know who voted for Onot will not this time around. They wanted to be part of history and don’t like the history that has resulted. I suspect their numbers will surprise everyone.
And most know the MSM is overwhelmingly in Onot’s pocket with over 80% of the stories on Romney being negative.

Dennis said...

Do I want a likable incompetent or do I want a supposedly not so likable person who demonstrates the ability to lead, make decisions, and run a business, govern a state and actually like this country? Romney maybe my third or fourth choice, but making that decision is not a hard one for me.
I take most of these polls with a HUGE grain of salt. Almost everyone of them has the Democrat respondent up 12 to 15 points vice Republican. Also many of these polls are conducted through telephone calls which means that people who work for a living aren't there to answer. Many of the respondent are self identified which leaves one rather skeptical. Lord knows the number of people on the Left I know of who identify themselves as former or current military who never served a day in their life.
A lot of people, like myself, do not answer calls from those they do not know because they could be telemarketers. In fact my greeting states, "If you are a telemarketer then you are assigned the default ringtone which I NEVER answer, If otherwise I would be happy to speak to you." I cannot believe I am the only one.
There is but one reason for these MSM inspired polls and that is to disheartened Romney voters.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree that many of the polls are skewed toward Obama. There is little the msm will not do to support their candidate.

Still, I find the Pew study worrisome because the gap is so large, and also because candidates who are not likable do not do well in elections.

Obviously, there is no real question about who the best candidate is, but still, do you really want to see John Sununu back in the White House picking Supreme Court justices?

Surely, we will vote for competence, but do any of us really know how Romney would govern?

Dennis said...

Though I agree with your ideas that Romney needs to define himself and his policies, he also needs to ensure that Obama becomes Obama. He needs to cause enough worry to Obama that the Obama campaign puts out ever more despicable ads that are usually easy to discount and disprove.
Likability is tied to people's opinion of how people act and the facade put up by Obama is gradually cracking and/or will readily become more explicit. If Obama's campaign is to throw as much "crap" agains't the wall to see what sticks there will come a time when nothing thrown at the wall will be believed. Being despicable usually does not comport with likability.
Romney has to let Obama be the Obama he has always been and hid so well behind "gauzy" language. Keep going after Obama's record and demonstrate that Romney can hold his own in the "arena" sans the need to be despicable.
Suffice it to say that I don't have the worry about likability that you do because I have faith in Obama's ability to be Obama.
I find it interesting that Obama is so worried about his base that he has MS. Fluke introduce him. The more he has to hold his base, weakening, the less he has for building an image that appeals to the larger majority.