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Romney Must Prove He's the Genuine Article


Mitt Romney, here with his wife Ann, needs to prove he's more than a telegenic candidate to win over GOP primary voters. (Reuters).

I received an message this week from a conservative who has been following the Republican presidential race closely. He offered a telling observation, which in paraphrase went as follows: the more he sees of Mitt Romney, the less he likes him.

I was particularly struck by that comment in part because of something Romney's politically savvy media adviser, Alex Castellanos, said to me several months ago, the essence of which was: when you putt Mitt Romney on television, good things happen.

Both may be right in their observations -- the first is obviously a statement of personal taste and not reflective of the population at large, while the second may be grounded in evidence that the former Massachusetts governor is able to change attitudes with a barrage of television ads. But it's also possible that my correspondent may be on to something, in which case Romney could have a problem on his hands.

Let's start by giving Castellanos his due. He was part of the team that created the strategy that put Romney on television early in Iowa and New Hampshire. The theory was that because Romney was not as well known as either John McCain or Rudy Giuliani, he had to the capture the nomination the old-fashioned way, by winning early and riding that momentum.

The keys to the strategy included a telegenic candidate, an interesting message and enough money to keep the ads running continuously. With the handsome Romney willing to write checks from his personal fortune to offset any shortfall in fundraising, campaign advisers knew they could keep him on the air longer than any candidate in the modern history of presidential campaigns.

Months and millions of dollars later, the Romney team could point to an obvious payoff. The former governor, though he was barely breaking into double digits in national polls, was leading in Iowa and New Hampshire and was seen as the candidate to beat in both states.

Romney also helped his cause with his winning performances in the early Republican debates. At a time when Giuliani was stumbling over abortion, when McCain was in free-fall over immigration, when Fred Thompson was mostly musing about a possible campaign, Romney filled the vacuum. Republicans and Democrats alike noted his effectiveness -- his stage presence, his smarts, his good looks, his crisp answers.

But since Labor Day, his debate performances have been uneven -- neither dominating nor disastrous. Rather than standing out from the crowd, he has been just one of many voices on a crowded stage. In none of the past three debates has he been judged as well as he was when he was making his debut as a national candidate.

There is a point beyond which being polished looks merely slick, where preparation begins to sound canned and corny. Romney has had moments recently that seem to have crossed that invisible line.

Here's just one. Last weekend, he spoke at the Family Research Council's Values Voters summit. This was an audience of religious and social conservatives -- many of whom may be hesitant to support Romney because he is a Mormon. One can argue whether anyone's religion should be in any way disqualifying in a presidential campaign, but the Romney team knows this is an issue of some concern.

Rather than addressing the issue directly, Romney tried to use humor. "I imagine that one or two of you have heard I'm a Mormon," he said. "I understand that some people think they couldn't support someone of my faith. But I think that's just because they've listened to Harry Reid."

He was referring to the Senate Democratic leader, of course, who also is a Mormon. And while he drew some laughs from the audience, it was an inelegant attempt to raise and then dodge an issue that continues to dog his presidential aspirations.

That may be a small issue. What should concern the Romney team more is that, after millions of dollars of television and months and months of campaigning, the candidate has not been able to shake off the flip-flop label. It remains a staple of coverage of his campaign -- unfairly according to his advisers -- as well as part of the standard attack line now coming from his opponents.

Romney freely admits he has changed some of his views, particularly those on abortion. Many politicians have done the same. Still, there are doubts about his core convictions that his rivals are poised to exploit heading into Iowa and New Hampshire early next year.

In part Romney's challenge is to articulate a bigger message than sweeps some of these issues to the side. He has had many messages throughout the year -- competence, freshness, conservatism, a three-legged stool. Lately, because of the jumbled nature of the Republican race, he has been focused on persuading Republicans he is the true conservative.

But it is difficult to sum up exactly what his candidacy is based upon and exactly who he is. That's not the case for Giuliani, certainly, even though his conservative credentials are open to challenge because of his liberal views on abortion and gay rights.

So the issue raised about whether Romney wears well may be the critical question for the candidate and his advisers at this stage of the race. In many respects, he offers Republians an attractive package, and his record of success in the private sector speaks of someone with clear talents. But presidential campaigns are different.

Creating a bond of trust with voters is critical to success. Television ads can go part of the way in doing that, but presidential campaigns are too long and too personal for television alone to do the trick. If Romney wears as well as his advisers think he will, he could become the Republican nominee and a tough general election candidate. But there are some doubters out there who wonder whether he will.

--Dan Balz

By Post Editor  |  October 23, 2007; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Dan Balz's Take , Mitt Romney  
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Comments

If Republicans are "sacrificing" their principles because they are afraid of Hillary Clinton what does that really say? I mean Hillary has the highest negatives of any candidate ever.

The real issue is that GOP core voters are completely out of touch with the rest of America. American's want a leader that represents ALL of them, not just the rich and the fanatically religious. I don't see a single GOP candidate that has the savvy and the contemporary values to lead this WHOLE country forward in the 21st century. Instead they walk, talk, and chew gum just like George Bush. And close to 70% of Americans think that is just plain wrong.

Posted by: MarcMyWords | October 24, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Romney like Bush like Cheny are Cowards of this Nation. Spread there vile propaganda by Fear! Hitler, Stalin, Castro, and many other Hi-Bird Dictators all in the same boat. There is no difference. And yes" there are a lot of Idiot Democrats as well.

Posted by: lobear00 | October 24, 2007 5:43 PM | Report abuse

It just goes to show you that many Republicans and many Democrats tend to vote based on how they "feel" rather than look at a candidate's accomplishments. Mitt has a clear record of success that is unrivaled by any candidate in the race: in business and government budget management, in health care, etc. He knows how to get things done, not just talk about them in empty platitudes. He may not have as dynamic of a personal story of war heroes like John McCain or a former first "lady" like Hillary, but he is unmatched in intelligence and acumen for tackling difficult issues and actually doing something about them.

Posted by: ahuff | October 24, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

"We don't need another "CEO" presidency. Look what that got us with Bush and Cheney. Mitt is totally a creation of his PR staff. No there there."

CEO presidency? I don't think you can quite call what Bush and Cheney are doing a CEO presidency.

Neither have ever had much success at that.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_life_of_George_W._Bush
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Cheney

Both were career politicians.

Posted by: jerris | October 24, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Uhhh, what? By all accounts Romney picked up momentum from FRC, Jones III, and Mack. I think the guy has a long way to go, but I this article would be way off according to most GOP circles.

Anyone who thinks Romney lacks substance needs a reality check. Unless you're comparing him to Huckabee (who, despite no chance of winning, has put forward the most "substance"), Romney looks favorable compared to the other front runners. Guiliani had a head start and has done little else. Thompson, in just about every area but immigration, is DOA.

Romney is at worst remaining stagnant, he certainly isn't slipping. WaPo and MSNBC seem downright determined, however, to slight Romney at every opportunity. Two left-leaning outlets focusing on one GOP candidate? Perhaps that is the most convincing argument for Romney's candidacy.

Posted by: johnmro | October 24, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

We don't need another "CEO" presidency. Look what that got us with Bush and Cheney. Mitt is totally a creation of his PR staff. No there there.

Posted by: azjimn2son | October 24, 2007 8:12 AM | Report abuse

The MSM seems to be supporting/promoting Giuliani with their polls and inordinate amount of positive press. It is for a reason. Giuliani is way to liberal, is pro choice (killing babies) pro gay, pro illegal immigration (NYC = santuary city), etc. I cannot see any real reason that Guiliani can call himself a Republican.
Romney, on the other hand, appears to be the only candidate that has a plan in turning things around for the U.S.
It doesn't help when even Fox, during Sunday's debate, spent a lot of effort, getting the candidates to attack each other, and saying over and over how Gialiani is the only one who can beat Hillary.
I'm sure the MSM would much rather have Giuliana as President because he is a closet liberal.
Mitt Romney is the only candidate who has any business experience and who hasn't made Politics a career.

Posted by: scottdevelopment | October 23, 2007 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Mitt Romney is by far better qualified and credentialed to run this wonderful and fragile Nation. He is the best educated: Harvard MBA, Harvard Law degree, both with high honors, no cheating.

He is the only candidate that has run major businesses, and is a turn-around specialist, a person who can fix things that are broken or in peril and make them great. That certainly is impressive and needed more than ever. He did it with the Olympics.

He has run a basically Democratic State, a major state with major cities and all the problems that confront the USA. He did a great job without raising taxes.

He is clean, one wife, great family values, and the kind of image we have needed since Reagan. He is articulate, a natural leader (just be in a room with him. I have!) He has good, fresh ideas for taking America forward, making us competitive, and using our wonderful free enterprise system to do it.

These others are career politicians, never had to make a profit, and none has the full range of education, talents, experience, and family values, by example. Only a dummed down or illiterate American would pass us such a great candidate. He has walked the walk.

Posted by: dnvigerjr | October 23, 2007 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Obama is my first choice and Romney is second; don't have a third. Hopefully I'll get to vote for one of the two of them in the general election. My impression of Romney is that he's led a real life with a lot of real accomplishments. He finds a way to get things done.

Posted by: Malia2 | October 23, 2007 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Romney can prove he is genuine like Larry Craig can prove he's not gay. They have the same problem: lots and lots of evidence over decades to the contrary.

I live in NH so I have to put up with his ads. They are as focus-grouped as I have ever seen, and living in NH for most of my life, I have seen a lot of ads.

His latest has him promising to eliminate taxes on dividends, interest, investment, and eliminate the estate tax. No mention on how he'd pay for the cuts. Oh wait, I forgot, the GOP seems to now LOVE deficit spending. Hmmmm.... who pays almost all of those taxes? The wealthy. He seems to have locked up the wealthy and business vote up here. Not much traction otherwise.

Posted by: steveboyington | October 23, 2007 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Folks, consider the Job, and what it is about.

Commander In Chief, Foreign Relations, and Business.

Mormons are not incapable of Fighting, Mormons are intelligent and very conversational with others-They spend part of their youth going Door to Door talking with whoever they can-Political Science 101!-The Hard Way!

Business, Can you say Alpha Beta and Safeway? Salt Lake most people would call a Business Hub!

Get Thompson to be Veep, get most of the others into his Cabinet, and tell Billary and Obasama to worry about Legislating the Old Fashioned Way(As in-No NEW Libbie Judges!) for another 4 Years!

As the ONLY Candidate with the Good Common Sense to realize all we need to do, IS ENFORCE our EXISTING IMMIGRATION and LABOR LAWS-He has MY VOTE!

Posted by: rat-the | October 23, 2007 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Actually, RipVanWinkleInCollege inadvertantly hit the nail directly on the head when he said Romney "appears moderate on social issues."

Appearances can be deceiving. And apparently Mitt likes to deceive. The flip-flop on so many social issues and others by Romney are telling. Right now, he's trying to appear to be conservative, and as the voters at the Family Research Council's Florida shindig showed, they prefer the dyed in the wool types over the spray-on tan types.

Unfortunately DrColes, you can't "know WHO you're voting for" if your candidate is intent on cloaking his true identity.

Posted by: jade7243 | October 23, 2007 7:30 PM | Report abuse

"George W is a guy you want to hang out with, clear brush with, tell stories with, etc. Mitt's not that guy."

Speak for yourself. If George Bush came to my house he most definitely would not be welcome. I do have some standards you know. ALL of the Republican candidates are peddling the same old Bush policies. There isn't a single new idea from any of them.

Posted by: MarcMyWords | October 23, 2007 7:16 PM | Report abuse

bot1 wrote:
"It is encouraging to note that Evangelical preachers such as Don Wilton and Bob Jones III (along with Jay Sekulow and Mark DeMoss) have dis-avowed bigotry"ect.

Get real, with them it's power and money, just like it is withe the mormons.

Posted by: frluke | October 23, 2007 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Why should Romney be allowed to shed his flip/flop label? I mean, that's what he is! Simple, to the point. No matter what the wapo and Fred try to do, this man will say anything to be President, and that should alarm voters.

Posted by: mpc2007 | October 23, 2007 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Fact is that Islamic extremists of various backgrounds have declared Jihad against us, but to date are not effectively "coming together" in any meaningful way. Although solving the Palestinian issue and reducing our forces in Iraq may provide a common solution, these groups otherwise remain separate problems for the most part.

I read the quote a different way. I don't think that he is suggesting that these groups are joining forces (sunni and shia would never come together on anything)just that they are coming together within each group against the west.

Again, I think that Romney is the smartest of the all the major candidates (Hillary is a close second) and has the skill and demeanor to bring this country back together.

Posted by: UnitedWeStand | October 23, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Hsu's to tell with Mitt.....maybe he needs to get chummy with some Chinese dishwashers?
Works for WaPo's gal pal.

Posted by: CM1515 | October 23, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Dear United,
No I am not fixed in my political support. For example, I was a staunch Bush supporter until I witnessed his grotesquely transparent sell for the Iraq war. In short, I am willing to vote for the best candidate, regardless of party affilliation.

Fact is that Islamic extremists of various backgrounds have declared Jihad against us, but to date are not effectively "coming together" in any meaningful way. Although solving the Palestinian issue and reducing our forces in Iraq may provide a common solution, these groups otherwise remain separate problems for the most part.

Attacking Iran could potentially make Romney's "coming together" prophecy come true of course ...

Posted by: markusward | October 23, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

The Post's constant discussion of Romney's religion is a form of media religious bias. It would never drumbeat this topic if the candidate were a Jew, Catholic or Muslim.

WELL I WOULDNT BE SO SURE OF THAT AS THE MORMON RELIGION IS A LITTLE ODD TO SAY THE LEAST! OK SO LETS DO THIS TEST:
HOW MANY WIVES DID THE FOUNDERS (SMITH & YOUNG) OF THIS MORMON RELIGION SHARE BETWEEN THE TWO OF THEM???
OK DUDE THEY HAD 150 WIVES!! AND JUST THINK OF IT THEY WONT ALLOW EVEN ONE (NOTE ONE) LOVING SAMESEX COUPLE TO GET MARRIED!! NOW DUDE THIS IS SO WEIRD!!
ITS SHOW US THAT RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING IT TOUCHES! OH JESUS MARIA WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

Posted by: WILLEM1 | October 23, 2007 5:30 PM | Report abuse

First, I doubt that I will be able to convince you of anything. You seem very convicted in your beliefs.

I am not even sure where to begin. Hasn't Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups declared a "Jihad" on the west?

I think that Romney is a very smart and decent guy who has proven that he can work in a bipartisan manner to get things done. This country needs someone who can bring this country back together. Maybe its Romney, maybe not but it sure isn't Clinton or Giuliani.

Posted by: UnitedWeStand | October 23, 2007 5:22 PM | Report abuse

The photo at the top represents MSM spin PLEASE be a little more intelligent ..... or .... your mama

Posted by: chuckthetruck | October 23, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

If You want to find out for yourself go to"Elect Romney in 2008" and ........"Evangelicas for Mitt".... Chris Mathews wants Obama and Sean wants Rudy MSM SPIN... it is now......... Hillary vs Mitt

Posted by: chuckthetruck | October 23, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

The photo atop this commentary tells us alot: Mitt looks like realizes the fraud isn't taking hold.

Posted by: pcstorandt | October 23, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Mitt's church, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) has been often misunderstood by Evangelical preachers, the MSM (including the Washington Post) and Air America . . Some accuse the Church of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion . .

http://MormonsAreChristian.blogspot.com/ helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early (First Century) Christianity's theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Mitt's church believes in the Jesus of the New Testament, who prayed to his Father in Heaven in the Garden of Gethsemane, not the Jesus portrayed in the creeds of the 4th Century.

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) adheres to Early Christian (New Testament) theology more closely than other Christian denominations. . Perhaps the reason Evangelical preachers such as Dr Jeffress of Dallas promote this mis-representation is to protect their flock (and their livlihood). The left is concerned with the Romneys' family life in contrast to the Clintons. It is encouraging to note that Evangelical preachers such as Don Wilton and Bob Jones III (along with Jay Sekulow and Mark DeMoss) have dis-avowed bigotry and appear now to have a moral and competent president as a priority..

Posted by: bot1 | October 23, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Dear UnitedWeStand,
seriously, what isn't scary about that quote from Romney? Please convince me!

Posted by: markusward | October 23, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Mitt has proven himself . He became PROLIFE. He is PROGAY and is for civil union. He has always been PROFAMILY . He has always been for PROMARRIAGE: between a man and a woman. ...If a person became prochoice why would he not be called a name? I see no problem with Mitt I do see a natural leaderand alot of JEALOUS, BIGOTED,HURT due to Bill Clinton,LOSERS due to picking the the wrong side of the issues and poor candidates

Posted by: chuckthetruck | October 23, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

LOL!! Thanks.

Posted by: UnitedWeStand | October 23, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Dear UnitedWeStand

Sorry, I meant to say "you must be a mormon"

Posted by: markusward | October 23, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

UnitedWeStand | October 23, 2007 04:41 PM
Well then you are a moron!

Posted by: markusward | October 23, 2007 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Everyone who is even considering supporting Romney should first consider this statement from him:

"They want to bring down the West, in particular us. And they're coming together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, with that intent."


Thanks. I like him even more.

Posted by: UnitedWeStand | October 23, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

What he needs to win is for all the other candidates, regardless of party affiliation, to drop out.

Posted by: FedupwithPolitics | October 23, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Everyone who is even considering supporting Romney should first consider this statement from him:

"They want to bring down the West, in particular us. And they're coming together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, with that intent."

Do you really think we should trust our country to a man who has so little understanding of world affairs?

What Romney needs to win this election is an intellect.

Posted by: markusward | October 23, 2007 4:31 PM | Report abuse

The article is nothing more than propaganda. We need to know the truth about all candidates Democratic and Republican. As we struggle to know our domestic enemies. No, matter your political party affiliation, and setting aside your thoughts on issues. We all need to remember what it is to be an American Citizen. We need to make sure our elected representatives obey their Oath of Office and keep their Oath of Allegiance. See http://tinyurl.com/2znnvl Know whom you are voting for.

Posted by: DrColes | October 23, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

"But since Labor Day, his debate performances have been uneven -- neither dominating nor disastrous. Rather than standing out from the crowd, he has been just one of many voices on a crowded stage. In none of the past three debates has he been judged as well as he was when he was making his debut as a national candidate."

Romney knocked the Michigan debate out of the park.

And the Fox events (they weren't debates) were silly. The first one was pure attrition--the moderators played adversarial presser. They even had "townhall" style plants with loaded questions by rivals at the event. McCain got dealt the best hand in the first event.

And the second Fox event was a pure Giuliani setup. Start with attrition. Pile on Romney. Throw some nonsense poll up to prove Giuliani is not like Ms. Clinton. Then let Ron Paul ramble. What a waste of time.

Posted by: mikeVA1 | October 23, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Slow news day, huh? Commenting on the commentor. It would'a been better to hear why he likes one of Mitt's rivals.

Mitt is worldly. I like world leaders. Reagan was a world leader. The majority of Mitt's rival are not.

Posted by: mikeVA1 | October 23, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

It's unfortunate that the things which make Romney attractive to centrists are the very things that make him unattractive to conservatives. As a centrist, I like the fact that he appears moderate on social issues and is not completely inflexible about raising those taxes necessary to pay for government functions rather than borrowing more money. Social issues are not going to matter too much if roads go unpaved, bridges go unrepaired, working people lack health coverage, and children go undereducated. I just wish that more conservtives would realize that.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | October 23, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

For Mittski its tough and frankly if I were in shoes, having people whizz all over my religion, I'd just assume spit at the family research council than speak to them.

George W is a guy you want to hange out with, clear brush with, tell stories with, etc. Mitt's not that guy.

But, I don't want another 4 years of a "cool dude" in the White House, I want someone who is as smart as Bill Clinton and frankly no one is smarter than Mitt, not even Hillary.

Mitt's not as likeable as some, but he's very capable of leading us out of our current problem...

I'm a GOP and I hate the religious right, they make me sick because they have a lot of similarities and the Shia clerics in the Middle East. They pretend to rally around the family, but they're more in it for the money than Wall Street.

Posted by: ClubbieTim | October 23, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

The Post's constant discussion of Romney's religion is a form of media religious bias. It would never drumbeat this topic if the candidate were a Jew, Catholic or Muslim.

Posted by: tdickson | October 23, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

If Romney is the "Genuine Article" I am Joan of Arc.

W.J. Malan
Author, The Audacity of Truth
www.anarcorp.com

Posted by: bmalan | October 23, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the opposite holds true of conservatives who get to know Mitt Romney. The majority of Americans actually like him the more they get to know him, not dislike him. Case in point are the states where he has spent some time. In Iowa, NH, Michigan, Nevada and now South Carolina and Florida, his percentages have gone from single digits to leading or second place. He's the real deal and ultimately has the best shot of beating any of the democrats, especially Clinton. What we need is greater conservatism, not soft liberalism.

Posted by: jskousen | October 23, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

He also needs to get a vacine that prevents "Hoof in Mouth" vis a vis the butchering of a couple of Osama comments and using Obama instead. Heavens, not another four years of "W Speak". At least he won't confuse "moron" and "Mormon" as the late Chet Huntley purportedly did when his father ran in 1968.

Posted by: NoMugwump | October 23, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Atten: Dam Baltz. Re: Your column of 10-23-'07. I remember with great fondness the days when Rutherford B. Hayes was President. Will Rogers said of him, and I quote, "The country didn't want nothing done, and He done it". Why can't we get a candidate who doesn't want "to do nothing"?. I think Fred Thompson might be our man. I could vote for such a man.
With utmost Sincerity, Cyrano.

Posted by: Cyrano | October 23, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

We know that the Giuliani's, are have membership in the globalist elitist, open border organization. They have no problem letting taxpayers foot the bill, for the 38 million illegal aliens (revised number from the Heritage Foundation) occupying our sovereign country.

Write now, in the next few days good Senator Harry Reid is going to try and slip through another amnesty. I gave up on the Democrats, when I re-registered my party option to Independant (populist) Find out the truth by going to grassfire.net or numbersusa.com
TiME TO FIGHT BACK TAXPAYERS OR BECOME PART OF THE GLOBALIST AGENDA TO LOWER WAGES BY USING ILLEGAL CHEAP FOREIGN LABOR!
TELL YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS! ANYBODY YOU CAN TRUST!
PHONE SENATE SWITCHBOARD AT:
202-224-3121

Posted by: infinity555 | October 23, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

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