Watching Mitt Romney address NALEO (the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) last week was like watching one uncle trying to explain to his nephew how the gift he was going to give him was better than the one he just got from the other uncle. Ralph Kramden sounded more convincing stuttering, “humina, humina humina.”
President Obama’s executive order to suspend deportation of approximately 800,000 Hispanics under the age of 30 who were brought here illegally, not only was a brilliant stroke of genius by an Administration that admittedly needs all the help it can get between now and November, it took the wind out of the sails of hope for the Republicans – and more particularly their presidential nominee, Mittens – who were desperately trying to shore up badly-needed support within the Latino community. As things stand now, about the only group Romney is sure to secure a majority of votes from are white men, notably older white men. In every other category – African Americans, Hispanics, women – he is trailing, and by some counts badly.
Of course the issue for Romney is actually quite complex and problematic. On the one hand he knows that he just can’t count on his base to get him elected. They’ve done the math at the RNC. Barring a complete collapse of the economy, Romney needs to improve his numbers with the above groups if he is going to beat Obama. That was one of the reasons Marco Rubio was seriously being considered as a running mate.
On the other hand Romney’s base is his biggest anchor. He can’t afford to piss them off, not when he will need every single one of them to vote for him in November. And, among this lot, talk of immigration reform his akin to selling secrets to the Soviets during the Cold War. Remember these were the people who cheered over the prospect of an electrified fence between the U.S. and Mexico. Talk about a catch-22.
So there was the used car salesman from hell on the podium trying to extricate himself from the box that his own party placed him in, “answering” the question about what he would do regarding Obama’s order should he get elected president. His “answer” was precious.
Some people have asked if I will let stand the President’s executive order. The answer is I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President’s temporary measure. As President, I won’t settle for stop-gap measures. I’ll work with Republicans and Democrats to build a long-term solution.
In other words a President Romney actually won’t repeal the order but put in place his own version of it. Of course just what that means is anybody’s guess. He’ll work with Republicans and Democrats. Sure he will, and when he gets fifty-five senators to pass the legislation that he wants – just as President Obama did – and the other party threatens a filibuster to keep it from getting to his desk, then what?
Oh well, I guess that’s not part of the plan then. It never is over at the Romney campaign. Come to think of it, the “plan” is pretty simple. Share as little as possible about the hows and whys lest some might not like what they hear. Remember how popular Ross Perot was until he stood up one day and told reporters just what he’d do if he got elected? And then there was that debate where Rick Perry said he was going to eliminate those departments in the government that he couldn't quite remember the names of. His popularity sank faster than the Titanic.
I’ll say this for the Mittster: he’s a quick study. If the Devil is indeed in the details than the former Massachusetts governor must be sportin’ one hell of a tail under that suit. So far as I’ve been able to ascertain the whole Romney platform comes down to this: I’m better than Obama; I just can’t say how.
He’ll balance the budget, reduce unemployment to 4%, grow the economy at 6%, cut taxes for everyone (especially his buddies), “reform” immigration and bomb Iran. How he proposes to do all this is anybody’s guess, because when you ask the man from Michigan what his plan is to accomplish all this, he refers you to his 59 point plan on his website, which also is somewhat vague about little things like implementation [one of his advisers called it “a starting point”], or he simply refuses to answer the question altogether. He “endorses” the Ryan plan, yet won’t commit to saying he would sign it into law as president. And for good reason: the moment he does, Florida goes out the window.
Let’s see, Bain Capital is off limits with him; so is his term as governor of Massachusetts; and he won’t get specific about how he would fix the economy. The man has been running for president for five years, yet can’t or won’t answer direct questions about policy.
Basically what the Romney campaign is banking on is that enough voters will vote for their guy out of sheer frustration with Obama without actually asking what it is he would do and how he would do it. And while that might have worked during the primaries and may work with some voters in the general, I doubt it will work with a majority of them. At the end of the day, Romney will have to reveal at least some specifics about how he plans on turning the economy around.
In my line of work – sales – you can count on a few disgruntled customers to buy from you, but at the end of the day, if you want to succeed, you have to differentiate yourself from your competition. In 2004, the Kerry campaign tried to cash in on voter dissatisfaction with George Bush. The Iraq War wasn’t going as advertised and it turned out those weapons of mass destruction were nothing but a figment of the Administration’s imagination. “Vote for us, we’re not Bush” didn’t go over too well. While voters conceded the point that Kerry was in deed not Bush, the simple truth is that Kerry didn’t close the deal with them. He lost.
Saying the other guy sucks only gets your foot in the door. Sooner or later, if you want to get the rest of your body in, you have to start talking about yourself. For Mitt Romney, that day should prove most illuminating.