The first Presidential debate of 2012 is just a few days off and the time-worn process of lowering candidate expectations is on. Each campaign is finding newly realized respect for their opponents oratory and debating skills to lower expectations of their own candidate and hedge their bets. But try as they may, the Romney campaign can’t diminish the importance of this first debate for their candidate. It will be his last best chance to introduce himself to the electorate again.
It is striking that at this late stage of the campaign, only 38 days from Election Day, the Romney campaign is still finding itself in need of candidate definition and introduction. After all, its not as if there haven’t been numerous opportunities over the past year for America to meet Mr. Romney. We met him during the seemingly endless debates during the Republican primary season. We met him when he clinched the Republican nomination. We met him when he announced Ryan as his VP selection. We met him when he accepted the nomination at the Republican Convention. We have met him through the eyes of his wife and countless Republican supporters. We have met him through the endless ads and talking head analysts. And yet, he and his campaign feel that we still don’t know him. Is it possible that this man is so deep and so nuanced that he is so hard to truly understand and know? Or is it that America has concluded that they do know him and simply don’t like him? The polls would indicate the latter.
It is quite surprising that the Romney campaign staff, and Romney himself, have so misunderstood the reality of this campaign. Their plan was simple. The economy is bad. Obama is responsible. Romney, with his business acumen has the solution. Vote for Romney. It is so simplistic that it requires only simple sentences to describe. There isn’t a compound sentence in the mix. This is their plan A and there wasn’t a plan B. The Ryan pick was to quiet the noise from the base, while emphasizing the Obama economic disaster to attract Independents and perhaps even some wavering Democrats. But things haven’t exactly gone as planned. Ronmey’s numbers in every battleground state are bad.
The campaign miscalculated in a couple of areas. First, the economy is improving. It still has a long way to go, but people are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Clinton speech did a remarkable of job of putting these last years of economic turmoil into perspective and lighting the way to the future. Second, the Ryan pick, with his Draconian plans for Medicare and Social Security, has severely weakened Romney’s support among the 65 and older group. This is key in that a majority of this group supported McCain, and they a very consequential voting block in key battleground states. Third, the real Romney was exposed in the now famous 47% tape. All of the murmurings of elitism and sense of entitlement that have surrounded this candidate, became loud roars. His attempts to soften this view have been clumsy and transparent. Finally, his ill advised comments during the Libyan attack, and his ill fated trip abroad, showed him to be both ill informed and ill prepared for the sensitive world of diplomacy confronted by a President on a daily basis.
So, Mr. Romney try as you will to reintroduce yourself at the debate, we have met you, and we simply don’t like you. You are not the kind of person that meets the standards that we require in a President. We let those standards relax a bit by electing George Bush. We have learned our lesson.