Can Romney Be A Man of the People?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
In this morning’s New York Times, David Brooks delivered a most insightful picture of the state of the 2012 presidential campaign and the status of the Obama-Romney race. He concluded basically that Romney should be ahead but Obama is still more well liked. Obama remains the preferred candidate despite the extent to which the public clearly is dissatisfied with him as a President.
The missing explanation appears to be that Obama is ahead in likeability because Romney is viewed as an elitist and someone who cannot identify with average people. While Obama today is also clearly a member of the elite, his entire life story makes it very easy for him to relate to average people. Romney cannot help himself and keeps running into this problem whether it is the number of homes, cars, income, food, etc.
America has had very affluent presidents and candidates before, but they were not so awkward, and uncomfortable relating to the people as is Romney. F.D.R. despite his extensive family wealth was admired because of his battle with polio; John Kennedy, because of his Catholicism, his youthfulness, and his rolled-up shirt sleeves; John Kerry because he was an heroic, Viet-Nam veteran; and Bush 43 because he was everything but the elitist his father was. Bush senior, in fact, had the same problem in 1992 campaigning from his privileged boat(s) in Kennebunkport as does Romney.
The polls cited do not appear to have tested this factor, but Romney’s people need to address it fast, before the Obama campaign ads probably do it for them. Unless Romney soon stops falling on his own words and actions he will not succeed in overcoming this albatross. It is not his wealth or his success; it is that he appears unable to relate to the American voters.