President Obama will win a second term today. Why? Romney never gave us a reason to vote for him. He gave us a lot of reasons to vote against Obama, but never effectively made the case for himself.
I've been in public relations and marketing for more than 30 years now, and in most cases I can spot a communications problem when I see one, sort of like an veteran physician can diagnose strep throat in about a minute. Romney as a candidate missed delivering the most important marketing message that matters. Why he personally deserves our vote. President Reagan made the case. So did Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in '08. Whether you agreed with them or not, you knew they had vision. You sensed they were leaders.
To me, Mitt Romney came off more and more like a technocrat. Smart. Sound. Certainly very capable. Probably would make a better President than a candidate. But he lacked the kind of inspirational leadership appeal that gets you over the magical 50% mark in popular vote -- something he never seemed to crack. Certainly if there ever was a perfect election year that favored the message of smaller government, 2012 was it! But Romney never delivered it effectively.
There's a lot of talk about the "excitement" factor, how perhaps the Republicans have the advantage this year. I don't see it. The base is motivated, no doubt, but only to get Obama out, not to get Romney in, and that makes a big difference at the polls. You don't win many campaigns that way unless the incumbent is in serious trouble. And you really can't say that about Obama, even if you dislike what he's done. He's just not vulnerable enough to the classic "throw him out" strategy that Romney's folks bet the farm on, despite a sputtering economy.
You have to offer voters more. A reason to like you.
And that's where Romney's advisers went wrong early. They never did enough to build the case for Mitt. In fact they let Obama define him early on, as an out-of-touch, insensitive billionaire. And if not for a truly pathetic performance by the President in Debate #1, this might have turned into an Obama landslide.
Maybe the problem wasn't communications strategy. Maybe it was simply the candidate himself. There wasn't enough to like. Personally I think Mitt has a lot of good qualities. Maybe a moderate uncomfortable in conservative cloth. But regardless, he didn't really resonate. So when the economy, month-by-month, showed signs of improvement, there simply wasn't enough of a reason to "change horses in mid-stream," the famous political metaphor and the main obstacle that faces any election challenger against a reasonably formidable incumbent. Obama's strategists on the other hand knew that most Americans already liked the President and his family personally. So all they had to do, really, was get the voters to like Mitt less, which they accomplished, and then promote the message that things are getting better. Bingo.
The result? Romney comes up short tonight.
Prediction: President Obama wins with more than 300 electoral votes, while Mitt Romney doesn't break 49% of the popular vote.
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