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Opinion

Opinion

Is likability the key to ‘12 victory?

April 30, 2012

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And so now we take on the question that has haunted you since the seventh grade: How important is it to be well-liked?

At Shaw Junior High, where I spent my seventh grade, it was pretty important. But in presidential politics? We’re about to find out.

This is an unusual race for the White House in many respects. The incumbent came into office on a wave of adulation unlike any in modern times — more so than John F. Kennedy, more so than Ronald Reagan. Even so, as he runs for re-election the polls put him in a dead heat with former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

Romney, by contrast, has few fervent fans. Polls show that the public is skeptical of how deeply he believes in his own campaign statements and is hesitant to warm up to him. He’s knowledgeable enough, these polls suggest, but not adept at building rapport with voters.

The result is that the United States is about to conduct its greatest test in more than four decades of the power of personality, measuring whether in tough times a man with difficulty relating to average Americans can defeat an incumbent with a mixed record but natural personal skills.

The best comparison may be 1968, when the man who was the more natural campaigner, the man with the warmer personality, the man who was more at ease with himself, was defeated by a rival who was awkward on the stump, cold in person and visibly uncomfortable in his own skin. In that election, Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey was defeated by former Vice President Richard M. Nixon.

There were, to be sure, many complicating factors in that election. Young people were rebelling, African-Americans were challenging the moral order, and the nation was divided on the Vietnam War — and that’s before we factor in the unusual element of a strong third party candidacy from former Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama.

In the face of all that, a country in crisis turned to an experienced but unappealing hand, which seems unremarkable except when you consider that in 1920, 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008, the candidate considered more personable prevailed. The candidates who appeared more competent but lost include Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 and Nixon in 1960.

It is still six months to this year’s election, and it may turn out that Campaign 2012 is a dogma-eat-dogma race, pitting the Obama ethos of economic stimuli, higher taxes on the wealthy and an aggressive regulatory apparatus against the Romney ethos of lower taxes, less spending and an emphasis on business issues and economic growth.

Consider these findings from the latest New York Times/CBS News poll: Obama’s favorability ratings are nearly half again as high as Romney’s and he outpaces his challenger 47 percent to 34 percent as “someone you can relate to.” Romney has slender leads as someone who would “make the right decisions about the economy” and improve voters’ financial situations.

Those results are generally mirrored in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, where Romney prevails in two areas (changing business as usual in Washington and having good ideas for improving the economy) and where Obama prevails in all the rest (including being compassionate, caring about average people and being easygoing and likable).

Ordinarily, Romney tacticians might take these indicators and shape a message broadly along these lines: We are living in difficult times and what is required is intelligent, tough leadership, not an appealing fellow whose ideas haven’t revived the economy or strengthened the nation’s position in the world. But Romney’s profile as someone who has changed his beliefs and repudiated his record makes that argument more difficult to make.

The Times/CBS pollsters asked whether each candidate says what he believes most of the time or what he thinks people want to hear, and the result was stark, with Obama scoring 46 percent for saying what he believes, far outpacing Romney’s 27 percent. Add in Obama’s advantages in the Journal/NBC poll as the candidate who is more honest and straightforward and who is more consistent in standing up for his beliefs, and you see the Romney challenge in sharp relief.

“Often likability reflects the fact the candidates or presidents are doing something well,” says John Geer, a Vanderbilt University expert on presidential elections and co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll. “That’s where the Obama disconnect is. Romney’s task is to bring that into alignment by showing that the favorability ratings on Obama are premature and that there are in fact a lot of problems that voters can lay on Obama as a person.”

The flip side is that, while Obama, as the saying goes, needs no introduction, Romney still has a chance to introduce himself to many Americans. Indeed, he’s been scrutinized only by a minority of Republicans thus far. He’s been bruised by the nomination fight — but also toughened by it.

This presidential election is not even close to over. But even though it is primarily about Obama, not Romney, Romney has more work to do in the next half year than Obama does. Only on television is the Cookie Monster lovable.

— David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Comments

FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

In 1887 Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh , had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years prior:

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship."

"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage."

The Obituary follows:

Born 1776, Died 2012 It doesn't hurt to read this several times.

Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul , Minnesota , points out some interesting facts concerning the last Presidential election:

Number of States won by: Obama: 19 McCain: 29 Square miles of land won by: Obama: 580,000 McCain: 2,427,000 Population of counties won by: Obama: 127 million McCain: 143 million Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won by: Obama: 13.2 McCain: 2.1

Professor Olson adds: "In aggregate, the map of the territory McCain won was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens of the country.

Obama territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in low income tenements and living off various forms of government welfare..."

Olson believes the United States is now somewhere between the "complacency and apathy" phase of Professor Tyler's definition of democracy, with some forty percent of the nation's population already having reached the "governmental dependency" phase.

If Congress grants amnesty and citizenship to twenty million criminal invaders called illegal's - and they vote - then we can say goodbye to the USA in fewer than five years.

Of course we are not a democracy, we are a Constitutional Republic . Someone should point this out to Obama. Of course we know he and too many others pay little attention to The Constitution. There couldn't be more at stake than on Nov 6, 2012.

"Fathom the hypocrisy of a Government that requires every citizen to prove they are insured ... but not prove they are a citizen."

(from a source)

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 11 months ago

In other news, some occupy dudes are in jail this afternoon after being arrested for trying to blow up a highway bridge in Ohio.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 11 months ago

How's the general strike, occupy everything business coming off today? Has the public defecation started already?

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

Will OWS, The Anointed One's core base, and "May Day" turn the tide for The Anointed One? Depends on how much it rains I guess. lol!

http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2012/05/01/occupy_wall_street_holds_may_day_march.html?from=rss/&wpisrc=newsletter_slatest

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

Romney "does" have Harry Reid's qualifications to be prez. though.

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

Incompetent people can be likeable.

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gudpoynt 1 year, 11 months ago

Too bad for Romney we didn't fall into a double dip recession. Too bad unemployment didn't stay over 10% for longer. Too bad the economy continues to improve.

Romney's main ammo now is that the economy isn't growing fast enough. Well, that and the crushing debt that has yet to actually crush anybody.

If the economy picks up in the next 3 months, he's in trouble. If unemployment falls in the next 3 months, he's in trouble. That could be all she wrote for the Rom...

... unless of course the SCOTUS repeals the mandate which was his brain child. He could then spin his version of MassHealth as "A-OK" because his version of the health insurance mandate only applies to a few million people, which it TOTALLY cool, right?!

Hey Justice Scalia, R2D2 has a message for you from Mr. Romney: "Help me Antonin, you're my only hope."

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 11 months ago

The crucify dude went under the bus today. Must be getting crowded down there.

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 11 months ago

Arianna Huffington, founder of the liberal leaning site The Huffington Post, has criticized the Obama campaign for an ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have killed Osama bin Laden, calling the move "despicable." "I don't think there should be an ad about that," Huffington told "CBS This Morning" Monday. "To turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do." Sounds like the rats are leaving the sinking Obama ship. I guess Obama is not that likeable after all.

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

GWB loved pretzels. Look how much trouble that got him in. Reagan loved jelly beans; the press still likes to poke fun at that. The media thought Bubba downing a Big Mac and fries with John Q. Public was way cool. I guess a doggie treat is no big for this president. Wonder if he washed it down with a frosty beer?

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

I "like" The Flexible Obama cuz he prefers "Pit Bull" meat to "Soccer Mom" meat. He thinks "Pit Bull" is "delicious". It's so good he even jokes about it.

Anybody...I mean "Anybody" with that kind of classy "likeability" for dog meat is definitely good enough for New America.

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

JayhawksandHerd(anonymous)replies… "So, the primary reason to vote for Romney is that "he's not Obama. Gotcha"

Sorta reminds me why noone from the frazzled left voted for a guy they dubbed "McSame"........Obama wasn't "McSame". Gotcha. We already knew Obama would get almost every single black vote; racism perfectly defined.

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

&&Romney begins to tell the story of Romney ... Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday began the process of introducing himself to a general election audience by peppering his stump speech with personal anecdotes aimed at helping the wealthy former venture capitalist connect with every day people. Speaking to students and staff at Otterbein University in central Ohio, Romney described his career as the head of Bain Capital, a private equity firm that he said provided the impetus for a number of successful start-ups, including the Staples office supply chain. In the 1990s, Romney said, most companies purchased their pens, paper clips, copy toner and other supplies from merchants who delivered straight to their offices but at high prices. Bain was considering a proposal from an entrepreneur to sell office supplies in bulk at discount prices. Though "experts" told him it was a bad idea, that no manager wanted to worry about making a shopping run for office supplies, Romney said he hired analysts to look into actual office supply purchases by companies and discovered that the firms were spending far more than they thought on office supplies. "And so after a lengthy analysis, we decided that we would invest in this office super store. It's called Staples," Romney said to murmurs of recognition. "It now employs ... I think 90,000 people." – CBS News....so...

An argument could be made that US President Barack Obama is typical of the kinds of rulers that the modern power elite is trying to install around the world.

Bloodless, calculating, shrewd and cautious (in an unctuous and ruthless way), Obama is the kind of leader that the elites are seeking out. We have seen similar emplacements in Greece, Italy and even Spain.

Mitt Romney is another in this mold. It is a technocratic assemblage. The idea at root is not to question the system itself but simply to make it work "better."

(d'une source)

http://www.thedailybell.com/3844/Let-Mitt-Romney-Be-Romney-and-the-US-Shall-Be-a-Better-Place

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 11 months ago

Nothing likeable about this... "Obama Campaign Tries to Intimidate Romney Donors".

Obama's re-election campaign is publicly identifying Mitt Romney’s donors in a move designed to intimidate, revealing the names on a website titled "Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney's donors." Obama shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent,describing the givers as all having ‘less-than-reputable records.’

We haven't seen an enemies list since Nixon!

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Paul R Getto 1 year, 11 months ago

"Clearly Obama is more preoccupied with being re-elected than any other commander-in-chief of modern times." === Any interesting assertion; how did you reach this conclusion?

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 11 months ago

Who is running the country right now? Obama has already held more fundraising events than every elected president since Richard Nixon combined. Obama had held 104 fundraisers by March, compared to 94 held by Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and W. combined.

It's laughable that Obama bemoaned the “corrosive influence of money in politics" in his January State of the Union speech and the very next month reversed course and announced he was allowing cabinet members and top advisors to speak at big money events for super PACs. Clearly Obama is more preoccupied with being re-elected than any other commander-in-chief of modern times. In addition, it is just shameless and beneath the Presidency for Obama to open a situation room to tout the Bin Laden attack. And we still haven't seen the pictures!

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cato_the_elder 1 year, 11 months ago

"...Romney still has a chance to introduce himself to many Americans. Indeed, he’s been scrutinized only by a minority of Republicans thus far. He’s been bruised by the nomination fight — but also toughened by it."

That's the whole race in an nutshell. If Obama were anything close to a capable president, his poll numbers would be much better than they are.

Assuming that Romney and his advisers make a good choice for his running mate, those Americans who still believe in the rights of individual citizens to live their lives freely, who wish for America once more to be viewed with respect internationally, and who are committed to preventing the further growth of liberal Democrats' nanny state schemes will all vote, and will vote overwhelmingly to elect Romney.

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Liberty_One 1 year, 11 months ago

Ya'll should start getting used to the idea that Obama is going to win. Regardless, does it rally matter who wins? I mean, Ben Bernanke is still going to rule this country either way, so what does it matter who the #2 guy is?

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its_just_math 1 year, 11 months ago

Sure. Everyone has a friend who is really likeable, but irresponsible too. This friend never has any money, sleeps on your couch and emptys your refrigerator, drinks all your booze, always wants you to drive to the bar, always calls you first at 3 am from the jail etc etc.

Sure, let's keep this "friend" around another 4.

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