Mitt Romney faces a daunting task. In the best of circumstances, it is hard to beat an incumbent president. It hasn’t been done since Bill Clinton nosed ahead of George H. W. Bush, thanks to a strong showing by billionaire Ross Perot’s quixotic third-party candidacy.
Incumbents are hard to beat. They control the government, they normally have a fundraising advantage, and they generally can benefit from world affairs, wars, and the famous October surprises.
Couple the natural incumbent advantage with a group of talented advisors and strategists assembled by Barack Obama, and you begin to understand why Mitt Romney is the underdog in this race.
The challenge for Romney is twofold. First, he needs to control his own image. The Obama image is set in stone. Voters either like him or loathe him, but it is unlikely that this campaign will radically change opinion about Obama. But Romney’s image is not as stable. His campaign needs to attempt to introduce him to a wider audience and create a positive image or brand in these undecided or uninformed voters’ minds.
While Romney is busy introducing himself, Obama’s team will fighting to undercut the Romney message. In 1996, Bob Dole lost to Bill Clinton during this vital period before the summer conventions. Using his monetary advantage, Clinton savaged the Dole image before the campaign even got started. Dole lost before he was nominated. The Obama team has already started airing negative commercials attacking Romney. Romney cannot wait; he must fight back now.
But Romney cannot afford to just air negative ads about Obama. He has to also introduce himself. And Romney has the extra burden of still trying to convince conservatives that he is their guy.
Our advice to Romney is to carefully select a GOP running mate who can make conservative activists feel comfortable, and then execute his general election campaign.
A list of running mates should include Rick Santorum. Obama was smart to choose Biden because he was older, more experienced, and fully vetted. Santorum fits this description. His selection also closes the primary session wounds that are still open.
An inexperienced figure such as Marco Rubio, while attractive for his ability to excite an ethnic voting block, is fraught with the same problems presented by the Palin candidacy four years ago. It is a step into the unknown.
Current polling shows that the race is a deadlock. The state-by-state count doesn’t break at this point for either candidate. If Obama can turn out 90 percent plus of the black vote and suppress the Christian vote, he wins.
Romney must hold the McCain voters and excite Christians and Catholics enough to put him over the top. Because he is a Mormon, this excitement is not a given. Romney should also be diligent in fighting voter fraud. Eliminating fraud could swing the elections in Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Romney’s best tool is Obama’s record. The economy is still sluggish. Real estate is still slow-selling, and Obama’s Mideast policy has been a disaster. Keep the focus on the Obama record, solidify conservative/Catholic/Christian support, and Mitt Romney should live the impossible dream.
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