The problem a lot of conservatives have with Mitt Romney’s campaign to date—as opposed to problems with Mitt Romney as a conservative, which was the topic of a couple of previous columns—is that he seems to lack what is sometimes called “an instinct for the jugular.”
And that judgment is rendered in the context of a nation in such terrible shape that there appears to be no real reason why he should not be ahead of President Obama by five or 10 points in the polls.
And yet, even in those polls where Romney does lead, the gap between them is well within the margin of error.
Earlier this week, for example, Obama was up 1 point in the seven-day rolling average Gallup poll and down 2 points in the Rasmussen survey. Gallup’s seven-point post-convention “bounce” for Obama, apparently based mostly on the seductive rhetorical skills of Bill Clinton, has now vanished.
Meanwhile, voters are expressing a lack of confidence in the future:
just 37 percent say the “country is moving in the right direction,” says Rasmussen;
a majority believes “the government is doing too much” (54 percent, Gallup);
most believe the “next president will be a Republican” (60 percent, Rasmussen);
most people who describe themselves as “middle class” say it is harder to make ends meet now than it was a decade ago (85 percent, Pew);
and party affiliation among voters shows those claiming to be Republicans are at their highest point ever (45 percent, compared to 40 percent Democratic, Rasmussen).
Obama continues to run well ahead on personal likeability, for reasons that escape me, but with the real jobless/underemployment/discouraged worker rate above 20 percent, that may not mean too much.
At least, it shouldn’t. Romney is saying things that the media proclaim as “gaffes” that, when analyzed, seem like obvious truths: the administration is dangerously clueless about the forces roiling the Middle East while the president denigrates civil rights at home; the people who don’t pay income taxes are likely to vote for the fellow who promises to raise taxes on other people to benefit them.
What seems more important to conservatives isn’t what Romney is saying, it’s what he doesn’t seem to be saying: That is, his comments about a president who is vulnerable to justified criticism at so many levels seem weak, half-hearted and, worst of all, ineffective.
Romney’s long-promised “big wave” of aggressive commercials, holding Obama’s feet to the fire while laying out Romney’s plans to make things better, still seems to be noticeable by its absence.
Meanwhile, the airwaves have been full for months with Obama and his surrogates taking on Romney with unanswered half-truths, distortions and outright lies, including calling him a felon (he “hasn’t paid taxes in 10 years”) and a murderer (“Romney had Bain Capital kill my wife”).
• Where are the Romney commercials saying, as the U.S. Census Bureau reported Sept. 12, that in 2011, the second year of Obama’s “recovery,” “Median household income after inflation fell to $50,054, a level that was 8 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the recession took hold.”
• Where are the commercials showing Obama in Las Vegas at a fundraiser as our consulate in Libya burned and four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed in an attack about which the administration had prior warnings and which it ignored?
• Where are the commercials noting that it is far more likely that Obama’s continued bragging that he killed Osama bin Laden (to the point where many people could reasonably believe he was claiming to have pulled the trigger) was the real spur for the Cairo embassy riots, where rioters chanted, “Obama, Obama, we are all Osama”?
• Where are the commercials noting that Obama refused to meet with the leader of our sole remaining Mideast ally, Israel, to appear instead on the David Letterman show?
• Where are the commercials listing Obama’s long history of gaffes himself, from “57 states” to “corpseman” to the “Austrian” language—or showing him shamefacedly admitting he didn’t have very many “shovel-ready projects” on which to spend $800 billion of wasted stimulus money?
• Where are the commercials where Romney calmly and clearly lays out his top five or 10 priorities for improving the economy?
• Where are the commercials reminding people, as Fox News reported Tuesday, that “The top 1 percent of this country shoulders 36.7 percent of the federal income tax burden, according to the National Taxpayers Union. The top 5 percent pays 58.7 percent. The top 10 percent pays 70.5 percent. The bottom half pays just 2.25 percent.”
• Romney garnered considerable praise, and boosted his favorability among conservatives generally, by picking the estimable Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate. So, where is the whole series of commercials where Ryan rips apart Obamacare and cogently sketches his own budget plan and its benefits?
That’s only a small sampling of what could and should be done by a candidate who was serious about the issues and even more serious about winning the most important election the United States has faced at least since 1932 and probably since 1860.
Yes, the media is almost uniformly hostile to Romney, but it was almost uniformly hostile to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and they still got their messages across.
But in order to get a message across, you first have to have a message.
I think Romney does have cogent, important things to say about economics, foreign policy and our declining military strength—and about the Democrats’ total commitment to abortion and same-sex “marriage,” which remain unpopular issues all over the nation.
Americans need to hear that message. And they to hear it now.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.