This election is Mitt Romney's to lose, and it looks like he's lost it.
In 60 days, when all the votes are counted, political analysts will be able to look to the day Barack Obama delivered his speech to the Democratic Convention as the day he won the election.
The president outlined a clear and contrasting storyline. In many ways, he defined the election:
But when all is said and done, when you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation...It will be a choice between two different paths for America, a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future. Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known...
Elections are often won and lost on narratives. The candidate that can define the election and present an emotionally compelling narrative wins.
Obama, and his campaign surrogates like President Clinton, outlined a clear, understandable and emotionally compelling narrative: that Democratic values would restore the promise of the middle class. As Clinton noted, Obama laid the foundation for a modern, successful economy of shared prosperity. An economy where if you renew the President's contract you will feel it.
For Romney, someone that has been in pursuit of the presidency for much of the last decade, the current political backdrop couldn't have been scripted better.
After all, the country is facing one of the worst recessions in our history; there is low consumer confidence and the job market is just beginning to rebound.
Sounds like a loss for the incumbent. And according to many Republican leaders, the ideal time to run.
But what does the nearly $500 million spent by his campaign and friendly Republican PACs get for him?
Not much - unless you consider a narrative that will lose him the election worth the price.
Romney's narrative is that he is out-of-touch, inconsistent, a flip-flopper. The consummate politician.
In fact, everything he communicates about his campaign is allowing an impossible-to-shake narrative take hold -- an election ender -- that he has no core and will say or do anything to get elected.
Romney let his narrative be defined for him much in the way it was defined for Senator Kerry in 2004 and Senator McCain in 2008 and he will lose because of it. No amount of Super PAC cash can buy a new reality for him.
All he needs to do is look to history as his guide.
The 2004 election was defined, and won, by the early establishment of Senator Kerry's narrative as a flip-flopper that was soft when strength was needed. In fact, defining Kerry's narrative helped President Bush overcome unpopular domestic and international policies -- not to mention remarkably low poll numbers.
In 2008, Obama's narrative was emotional and obvious. People were engaged and the solution was a new direction -- change. He defined Senator McCain's narrative for him as "more of the same."
And as the 2012 election recaps are written we can look back at when Romney lost the narrative as the point when he lost the election. 60 days before Election Day Obama finished the story line for him.
The election was Mitt's to lose; and he lost it.
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