Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Obstacles and Challenges

Mitt Romney continues to face challenges and obstacles in his bid for the GOP nomination.  Each time his supporters and some in the media begin to believe that his time has come the campaign hits another bump.  To be fair, his campaign is facing some challenges and obstacles with which his competitors either haven’t faced or haven’t faced to the same degree.  Despite each of these challenges, many of them recurring, he continues to remain the frontrunner, the one all the others are trying to catch.  During the 2008 campaign his biggest obstacles were name recognition and the end of an unpopular Republican presidency.  This time around all the necessary pieces are in place.

Here’s a quick look at some of the challenges faced by the Romney campaign:

1.     Right Wing Media.  Governor Romney has faced a concerted effort among portions of the right wing media to discredit him and his campaign.  Fox News along with some very influential pundits is quite open in their preference for another, any other, GOP candidate.  It’s interesting because some of these pundits were much more open and supportive of a Romney candidacy four years ago.  I’m not sure what changed for them but I would like to venture a guess.  Three years of an Obama presidency has been great for ratings.  Many of these pundits make a living off of fear of the other side.  If the other side becomes impotent, they have no more Kool-Aid to sell.  None of the other GOP candidates, with the possible exception of Ron Paul, have faced such openly negative press up to this point.  

2.     Anti-Mormon Bias.  There remains a strong bias among certain segments of the GOP/conservative base against a Mormon candidate.  Common sense and reason often are insufficient to overcome bigotry.  Voters affected by this malady are unlikely to do what’s best for them and the country out of fear of offering legitimacy to a set of beliefs different from their own, even if that set of beliefs upholds their own values.  

3.     Moderate Image.  As a former senate candidate and governor of Massachusetts, Romney dealt with a political reality that favored liberal policies.  His conservative opponents have used his former position on abortion as a battering ram.  The issue of Romneycare, despite its real and significant differences from Obamacare, remains a liability.

4.     Opponents.  Every candidate has to convince the voters that they are a better choice than their competitors.  Romney has had to face off against almost every GOP candidate as the next “real thing.”  Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll and then faded.  Rick Perry had it all, but then he opened his mouth.  Herman Cain had 9-9-9, but then old friends remembered the past and shared.  Gingrich was next in line.  Everyone took a trip down memory lane with him and then he reinforced what we already knew.  Jon Huntsman.  Did you remember he used to be a candidate?  That leaves us with two other opponents: Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.  Rick Santorum is the next “anyone but Romney”.  Ron Paul presents a unique challenge, but is highly unlikely to get the nomination.

5.     Mr. Nice Guy.  Governor Romney has a reputation as a nice guy based on his performance during the debates.  Many of his competitors thought and continue to think that they can take advantage of his kind personality.  Gingrich thought he could walk over him with negative comments and advertisements.  Pundits and voters wonder if he’s tough enough to take on President Obama and the Democrats in the general election.

While facing these challenges may seem daunting it’s worth noting how Governor Romney has met each of them and how his strengths offset them.

1.     Cool Under Fire and Optimism.  Governor Romney has faced political attacks in the past as well as currently.  Throughout the process he has managed to maintain a level of calm that has to frustrate his opponents.  He doesn’t overreact to misrepresentations of his positions.  He doesn’t give into despair and hopelessness.  He maintains a clear focus on the task at hand.  He learns from his mistakes and makes adjustments.

2.     Organized and Prepared.  His sense of calm stems in large part because of his ability to organize and focus his efforts.  This allows him to be prepared for setbacks.  It allows him to be ready for the ABR flavor of the month.  Perhaps most importantly he is preparing for the general election.  He only reacts to the GOP competition when forced to do so.  This is smart because it allows him to conserve resources when possible and minimize the intraparty bickering.

3.     Business and Executive Skills.  Governor Romney spent his professional career in the business world.  He took new companies and failing companies and worked to turn them around.  He knows how to make the tough decisions.  He knows how to negotiate in a hostile environment.  He knows how to do what has to be done in order to be successful.  This not only prepares him to be the Chief Executive, it provides him the skills necessary to run a successful campaign.  He can handle the rough and tumble with his fellow candidates when necessary.  Gingrich learned this in the last two debates.  

4.     Moderate Image.  This same perceived weakness in the GOP nomination process will be strength in the general election.  America is not ready for a self-proclaimed right-wing conservative like Rick Santorum.  Moderate and independent voters will run from a Santorum or Paul candidacy.  Santorum claims the title of conservative but is in fact a big government Republican.  Paul excites people with his talk of returning to Constitutional principles but many of his ideas remain outside of the mainstream and he has no idea or experience that would lend itself being able to accomplish his stated goals.  The election against Obama will not be an easy one to win if we don’t have a candidate with the skill set and experience to turn things around.  Romney has governed in a liberal, eastern state.  This affected his conservative credentials to a degree giving some on the right the opportunity to challenge him.  In the end I think it will help him get moderate and independent support.  Governor Romney is a conservative.  I believe that once he is in office many will be surprised at his level of commitment to conservative principles and Constitutional government.   As President of the United States of America with a conservative majority in Congress and the support of the American people he will have the ability to govern as a conservative from a position of strength. 

5.     Core Values and Success.  Governor Romney has lead his private and public life in accordance with a strong set of core values.  He is loyal to his faith, his family and his country.  He is a problem solver who wants to make things work as best as possible to benefit the most people.  He believes in the value of hard work and success.  He has been successful in almost every endeavor in his life.  When he’s come up short on something he reapplies himself with the lessons learned.  His core values and successes frustrate his GOP contenders and the Obama Administration.  They have no scandal to pin on him in his personal life.  Additionally, all of his policy decisions were based on doing what he thought was best for his constituents, not on what he could gain out of it personally.  His opponents, outside of perhaps Ron Paul, don’t have the record of success guided by core values and a desire to do what’s best for the country.  Gingrich is interested in himself.  Santorum is a big government conservative who after being soundly defeated for his senate seat made his millions as a lobbyist.  It is also important to note that his character and personality are driven in a very significant part by his religious beliefs—his “Mormon” beliefs.

Many on the right and the left are opposed to a Romney presidency because he has the skill and the passion to make real change in Washington.  His election would bring additional Republicans to Congress who would help him make the change.  He will continue to face oppositions, obstacles and challenges.  As he overcomes these challenges moving toward the general election he will become a stronger candidate, immune to many attacks already faced.  As with Reagan before him, conservatives will vote for him, though many may wish for a different candidate in the general election.  These same conservatives, within a short span will begin to laud the efforts and successes of President Romney.

- Jarad Van Wagoner

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