COMMENTARY | It was in 1988 when the Democrat candidate for Vice President, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, declared politics to be “a contact sport.” That is still true of the fight for the White House. Some are saying now that Mitt Romney, in his quest for the nomination has become too negative. And, if he wins the nomination, will he be too battered and viewed too unfavorably when he looks to the fall campaign?
Former Governor Romney is on the defensive about his wealth, his misstatements about the poor, and his position on the auto industry bailout. Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania, has him reeling and Santorum is emerging as the conservative survivor of the primaries.
Romney must go on the offensive, but he cannot go more negative. First, America is the Land of Opportunity and no one should apologize for or be uncomfortable talking about their success. Romney needs to quit stumbling over his own wealth and use it as proof that America is a place where hard work pays off. The Democrats had the Kennedys and the Roosevelts. Romney should embrace his success and talk about the opportunities the country has for all.
Second, he needs to explain what he will do to bring strengthen our economy for all people. His misstatements about the poor and the safety net can be erased if he discusses exactly what he would do differently than Obama. This is especially important as the primaries turn to the Midwest. Ohio and Michigan expect answers. Romney offered a 59-point plan in September, but he does not talk about them and no one can name the points LA Times.
With the campaign heading into the toss-up states with numerous delegates and Electoral College votes, Romney must be conscious of the present impact of his actions. The Columbus Dispatch on February 16 presented a Quinnipiac poll with Romney holding a 40 percent negative rating in Ohio. His favorable rating is 37 percent. Negative campaigning can reduce the favorable numbers of one’s opponent, but it does the same for the candidate on the attack. Romney cannot afford this.
Third, Romney needs to clarify his position on the auto bailout. He wanted the automakers to declare bankruptcy and reorganize through the legal system. The Obama Administration and Congress decided on a public bailout which worked. Romney must explain to the voters of Michigan and Ohio why his plan would have worked better than Obama’s or he could lose both states. If he loses them, his campaign may be over.
Do not go negative Mitt; go on the offensive.