Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Romney has a big problem

Mitt Romney has a very big problem ahead of him, it seems to me.  That problem is the Republican Convention. 

He campaigned as neither fish nor fowl.  That is, he spoke like a hard core right winger during the primaries, but no one believed that he actually was one.  He gathered more votes than the real hard core candidates, and I believe that the basis of his victory was probably the fact that the primary voters wanted a more moderate candidate than the other more extremists on the primaries tickets.

But almost all of his words pandered to the hard right wing.  And the convention will likely be filled with true believers who will exert a strong pull to the right.  So, how does Romney do what he needs to do to become president?  That is, how does he use the big stage of the Republican convention to address the nation, most especially the undecided voters and moderates, while standing in a giant hall filled with Tea Party and Evangelical and Libertarian faithfuls?

This Republican convention could have the same problem that the Democratic convention of 1984 in San Francisco did.  The convention delegates themselves could overwhelm the candidate’s message. 

After the ’84 convention, the Republicans mocked Mondale and the “San Francisco Democrats” because of the presentation of the San Francisco convention itself showed intensely dedicated hard left wing activists exuberantly pushing for hard core left wing policies.  Who Mondale actually was got swallowed up by the message of the convention itself.  Romney could well get swallowed up by the same dynamic in Tampa this year as the delegates on the floor become the message rather than the backdrop for the candidate.

If Romney just speaks to the delegates and tells them all the Tea Party and Social Conservative and Libertarian things that get them excited and aroused, it is possible that he will alienate those he needs in the center to win in November.  If he speaks more to the center, the reaction on the floor and among the Limbaugh/Beck/extremist commentariat could kill him amongst the base. 

I don’t know that this man has the political skills to speak to both the extremes and the center at the same time, and if he chooses one over the other, it could be the end for him.  He hasn’t shown much in the way of political dexterity so far, and I can’t say I expect it at the end of the month in Tampa.