Mitt Romney’s Communication Problem

A lot has been written about Mitt Romney’s flip flopping on important philosophical and public policy issues, but does he have a greater problem with the GOP electorate? Perhaps Romney appears too smart, as in the intellectual variety.

You don’t have to be Bill Maher (he calls the GOP the “stupid party”) to acknowledge that during the last dozen years or so the party has not rewarded intellectualism. George W. Bush in 2000 liked to convey the idea that he was so unworldly that he’d never left the country (even though he had.)

In 2004, Republicans went so far as to mock John Kerry for the outrageous sin of knowing how to speak French (if you think I’m joking, here is the ad

Is Mitt Romney the new John Kerry? Or worse, from the perspective of GOP primary voters, the new Barack Obama?

It is true that Newt Gingrich fancies himself a world-class thinker and intellect. But with Newt, his intellect appears to be focused on ways to stick it to Democrats and liberals. Witness Gingrich’s recent announcement that he would appoint John Bolton as Secretary of State. That was a wildly clever piece of political strategy designed to make Fox News conservatives become euphoric and for liberals and Democrats everywhere to lose their lunch.

Mitt Romney never would have come up with an idea like this.

Romney appears to want to use his considerable intellect to use the government and solve problems whether it was his state-run healthcare plan as governor or his 2359 point plan to improve the economy once he is president. In this regard, Romney seems a lot less like Newt Gingrich or even George W. Bush and a lot more like another former Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis.

Democratic leaning pundits and political types all believe Romney would be the toughest GOP opponent to face Obama because Romney seems to be someone who is like what Democratic leaning pundits and insiders consider themselves to be: highly intelligent, well educated, smart, pragmatic, and with the ability and talents to make government “work.”

For many conservatives, (when they aren’t over-dramatically calling Obama a Socialist or Communist) the Democrat’ vision of Romney is too close to what Republicans consider Obama to be.

For too long Romney’s message seems to be “I’m not in favor of that bad old big government Democratic Obamacare, I’m in favor of a Republican-flavored state-run health care system.” Ironically, what Romney doesn’t seem bright enough to understand is that the GOP electorate is looking for a candidate who can passionately and vehemently denounce any and all government involvement with healthcare (while continuing to run Medicare and covering prescriptions, of course).

Romney’s implied message is that he is so smart that he can make government run smarter and more efficiently and toward more conservative goals. What he isn’t smart enough to realize is that GOP base currently buys into the message that government is inherently bad and the goal should not be to improve it or make it better. Instead, the only legitimate goal of a Republican official in power is to take the government and, in Grover Norquist’s words, “drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

Romney couldn’t say he wants to drown government any more convincingly than if he claimed he loved to watch professional wrestling in his free time. Prediction: we are going to see more and more Republicans and outsiders attacking Romney in the coming weeks not for being a flip-flopper, but for being too smart. One short hand way of doing that is highlighting Romney speaking French, something he’s really good at since he spent 2 years on a Mormon mission there. Here is a new ad about to hit Iowa and New Hampshire that shows and then mocks Romney for his French fluency:

(disclosure, I am the founder of the group that produced this ad)

Final Prediction: Romney will be attacked more and more for a variety of ideological sins, but the subtext will always be that Romney is just too smart and too much like Obama. And this will mean that Gingrich or some other Republican will get the nomination.

2 thoughts on “Mitt Romney’s Communication Problem”

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  2. I don’t think the designation of “too smart” is the main reason that Romney is not being embraced by Conservatives. Possibly in some of the heartland…possibly…but it’s not what I hear in more general circles. After drilling down deeply enough, I think they don’t believe that Romney is anything close to a true core Conservative. When you strip away the “slick,” they see a hidden side shape-shifter that is as solid as jell0, and one not motivated by pragmatic, intelligent compromise, but one more tuned to selling out on issues they embrace. They see him as one who wants to still be a Republican for obvious advantages, but get as close to the Democratic line as possible. I think you’re right that he is seen much more like a Michael Dukakis, and the more conservative they are, the more they don’t like the taste.
    The simple “trust factor” is not there with Romney. They only see Romney as a slightly less liberal alternative. In most Conservative circles, that does little to ignite any passion, only a reluctant, “least of two evils” kind of choice. Yes, Romney will likely be the most difficult of the current lot for President Obama to beat, but only because ultimately, Conservatives would rather elect a Romney than an Obama, part 2.

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