Romney's "Joe Six-Pack" Makeover
May 2, 2012
Rolling up his shirtsleeves, eating a burger and fries and speaking off-the-cuff at a campaign stop in Westerville, Ohio, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney reinvents himself now that the rough-and-tumble GOP primary campaign ends. With only former House Speaker Newt Gingrich scheduled to call off his campaign May 2, Romney becomes the presumptive Republican nominee. No longer proving he’s a real conservative, Romney pivots for the prime time fight against President Barack Obama. He knows that his sometimes uppity, stiff and aloof style must connect with a much bigger audience, stealing at least some of the thunder from the younger charismatic first-term president. While Obama’s charisma has taken a hit during his first three years in office, the 51-year-old president packs in enthusiastic crowds where he finds his way to the microphones and cameras.
Speaking at Otterbein University in Ohio April 26, Romney showed a different side relating to Joe-six pack. Instead of pandering to his Party’s right wing, Romney avoids hot-button topics like abortion, immigration and gay marriage, focusing on student loans, something Obama has made a priority in the early stages of the campaign. Romney must reach out to the youth, minorities and disgruntled white voters, frustrated with the slow pace of economic recovery, leaving too few opportunities and too many unemployed. Romney must speak to working folks, avoiding the “Kerry syndrome,” where former President George W. Bush made Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), husband of billionaire heiress Teresa Heinz, look like a rich snob. Bush was no slouch, scion of the mega-rich Bush family, with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, one of the richest Americans.
Recent gaffes on the campaign trail by Mitt’s wife, accentuated the “Kerry syndrome,” where she reflected actually denied “feeling” rich, despite her husband’s net worth at around $100 million. Romney’s attire and grooming reminds voters of Kerry’s meticulous appearance, where every hair occupies a sacred place. When news of Romney’s wealth and offshore Cayman Island tax shelters hit the headlines Jan. 18, it launched former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) and Gingrich to new victories. Instead of wrapping up the nomination, Romney’s financial dealings helped his opponents. “I’m absolutely convinced that this nation is the greatest nation on earth, and it is so because of the American people, a people who stand united when called upon by leaders to be united,” said Romney at Otterbein, acting more populous, but underscoring the nation’s partisan divide.
Romney’s candid admission to a French journalist April 24 that he liked past vacations in Paris opened up the “Kerry Syndrome,” where he separated himself from ordinary voters. “Congratulations,” Romney told Otterbein senior Jeff Fabus complaining about student loans, while taking bites of his hamburger and nibbling on French fries. While Obama recently admitted to paying off his college debts only eight years ago, Romney apparently financed his Harvard graduate education by selling some stock given to him by his late father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, something alien to average voters. Romney touts his business savvy as a venture capitalist and leveraged buy out guy at Bain Capital, also something worlds away from the man-in-the-street. He often bashes Obama’s handling of the economy, saying nothing about the economy under Bush.
Appearing with Barack at campaign stop, former President Bill Clinton has been trying to set the record straight about the economy. GOP election strategy continues to pin U.S. economic woes on Obama, forgetting, as Clinton points out, that the 2008 financial collapse occurred under Bush’s watch. Echoing the views of former Fed Chief Alan Greenspan, Clinton reminds folks that recovery after economic meltdowns takes between five and ten years. Romney’s new makeover attempts to speak to “Joe Six-Pack,” worried about job security, despite opposing the national financial bailouts, especially of major U.S. financial institutions and General Motors. It’s beyond ironic that Romney, who worked on leveraged buy-outs at Bain capital from 1984-99, routinely laid-of U.S. workers in the name of efficiency and profitability. Becoming “Joe Six-Pack” hopes to camouflage Romney’s Wall Street roots.
Romney’s problem selling himself to ordinary voters stem less from his wealth than his somewhat aloof and awkward personality. Becoming a “man-of-the-people” won’t be easy for a son of privilege, who now wants to exchange his wingtips for steel-toed work-boots. His problem bashing Obama’s economic track-record stems from hard facts from Wall Street and the Labor Department, proving that corporate profits are up and unemployment is down. While it’s true that Mitt returned investors at Bain Capital over 100%, the little guy suffered with union-busting and layoffs. “We now know that only one campaign is going to run on President Obama’s record of the past three-and-a-half years in office—and it’s not the Obama campaign,” said Romney’s campaign manager Matt Rhoades. Rhoades talks of Obama’s “record” but only the one he’s invented for the campaign.
About the AuthorJohn M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma
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