Romney's clock is ticking

Candidate needs to tweak strategy – now – to win over conservatives

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What’s wrong with Mitt Romney?

Surely a great number of Democrats and independents have to be wondering that. Here’s a guy who could play a middle-aged Clark Kent. He’s smart, articulate, well-bred. The biggest knocks on him seem to be 1) he’s too successful and 2) he’s too civil.

Really? Those are problems? Heaven help us if that’s so.

So why are Republican voters having such a hard time saying “yes” to this guy?

Part of the hesitation has little to do with him: There’s simply a vacuum at the top. Democrats hold the White House, and there’s been a nearly unprecedented herd of Republicans hoping to oust the other party. The field, though winnowed, has been very crowded. Divided loyalties are just going to happen.

That’s not a problem. That’s our system of self-governance. And as messy as it appears, it’s a beautiful thing.

Republicans need to be very careful right now, however. It’s likely that, once there’s a nominee, the entire party will unite behind him to defeat Barack Obama. But the campaign is reaching a delicate turning point in Florida – and candidates need to be cautious not to inflict crippling wounds on each other.

Another of Romney’s non-Romney problems is Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich’s bold vision, his willingness to take on this president in blunt terms, and his stinging and long-needed rebukes of the left-wing media have gotten conservatives energized like no other candidate has in years. Without Gingrich, it’s likely Romney sails to the nomination unscathed and largely unchallenged. Astride Gingrich, Romney can come off milquetoast.

Besides all that, Romney has some of his own problems.

He does appear detached and wooden – and in this day and age, that’s a huge drawback. It does matter how people feel. Elections can hinge on emotion, sad to say, and if a candidate can’t “feel your pain” – as Bill Clinton famously claimed to do – then it turns some folks off.

And again, next to Gingrich’s fire, that can look like ice.

Romney also appears to have been poorly served by his handlers and speech writers. He released his tax returns long after the failure to release them had started slicing deep into his image – and his answers to demands for their release were fumbling and equivocal. “Maybe”? Who ever said “maybe” in a presidential debate? If he was torn about that, what other, thornier, decisions will endlessly torment him as president? It just makes him look hopelessly indecisive, though surely a businessman of his stature surely can’t be.

It would go a long way toward resuscitating that image if he would start giving snappier answers. Again, it’s sad to say, but that’s what is called for today. He could have, for instance, nipped the tax return issue in the bud by simply saying, “I’ll release them tomorrow – but the fact is, this election isn’t about my money, it’s about yours!” Now that would resonate.

It would also be true.

But Mitt Romney’s two main problems are with conservatives:

1) We believe this country needs a major change in direction; he appears to be the type for minor course corrections. Gingrich has cuttingly referred to Romney “managing the decay” in Washington.

2) He hasn’t convinced us that he’s really a conservative – or whether he’s a Ronald Reagan brand or a George W. Bush one. The first kind is rock-solid and dependable; the second is not. Truth be known, conservatives are still traumatized by the Bush experience – and are deathly afraid a Romney presidency would only be a reprise of it.

So, what’s wrong with Mitt Romney? In the scheme of things, not much. But his campaign needs some tweaking, and he needs to understand that he has yet to win over the conservative Republican base. We’ve yet to detect his moorings. And that’s a significant shortcoming in a GOP primary.

As long as the process is, Romney is running out of time to fix what’s wrong. This could be a make-or-break week for Romney. If Gingrich wins Florida and makes Romney look bad doing it, the numbers may not say it but the psychology will: Romney will be on the ropes.

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/26/12 - 04:52 am
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Isn't it just fitting to

Isn't it just fitting to describe some politicians as milquetoast? I wonder why the Chronicle told me to stop referring to one local politican in such a way?

Romney needs to get drunk before a debate and slap somebody. Or maybe drive over a train tressel in a pick-up. THEN we Southerners may give him a little respect. Enough of the Speedo wearing, bicycle riding, Massachusetts' look.

DuhJudge
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DuhJudge 01/26/12 - 07:14 am
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I thought he did a great job

I thought he did a great job getting the attention when he conceeded after about four precincts had come in Saturday evening. Who watched the primary results after that? And he sounded good saying, see you in Florida.

allhans
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allhans 01/26/12 - 08:03 am
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I like Mitt Romney. I like

I like Mitt Romney. I like his ideas.
If you didn't see his interview with Larry Kudlow on CNBC you should look it up. It will tell you much more than you hear during a debate.

faithson
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faithson 01/26/12 - 08:51 am
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'tweak strategy'... The man

'tweak strategy'... The man has been running for over 6 years now. YOU think he would HAVE a strategy by now. Mr. Romney's coy performance about his taxes indicates either He or his handlers have major problems with their 'strategy'. His returns should have been out long ago, instead, He puts them out there right before the State of the Union Address, His income of 40 million with a 14% tax... PERFECT example of the democrats call for 'the Buffet rule' called for in the speech. Thanks Mit.

wtinney
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wtinney 01/26/12 - 09:37 am
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Folks, check this

Folks, check this out:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/25/newt-gingrich-conservative-r...

It might be the clock has chimed already.

harley_52
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harley_52 01/26/12 - 10:18 am
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If you haven't already done

If you haven't already done it, check out wtinney's link above. It describes the situation pretty well, I think.

And both this Editorial and Riverman1 are correct in the use of the word "milquetoast." It's the way Romney comes across, at least in comparison to Gingrich, and if he doesn't fix it, he'll probably lose the nomination.

harley_52
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harley_52 01/26/12 - 12:23 pm
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Gingrich's statement during

Gingrich's statement during the recent CNN debate were false. He may be self-destructing already.

"After nearly a week on the defensive, CNN's John King reports tonight that Newt Gingrich's claim about offering witnesses to ABC News in his defense — to rebut the network's interview with his second wife, Marianne Gingrich — was not true.

"Tonight, after persistent questioning by our staff, the Gingrich campaign concedes now Speaker Gingrich was wrong — both in his debate answer, and in our interview yesterday," King said on tonight's edition of John King USA. "Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond says the only people the Gingrich campaign offered to ABC were his two daughters from his first marriage.""

http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/01/gingrich-admits-abc-claim-wa...

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/26/12 - 01:40 pm
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I'm still hanging in with

I'm still hanging in with Mitt even though I think he's Casper Milquetoast, but if this country ever got in trouble with some international crisis and we needed someone to represent us who could do some hard dealing, I'm calling Newt.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/26/12 - 01:43 pm
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I must say the Churchill

I must say the Churchill comparison with Newt fits. Physically, intellectually, womanizer and rogue. A charismatic leader.

allhans
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allhans 01/26/12 - 02:41 pm
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More and more Newt lies are

More and more Newt lies are being exposed...Will there be anyone left standing.
And please don't say Ron Paul, he is barely standing now.
My favorite was when Newt told Romney that he "asked" the Republicans to oust him. Yeah, we know, Newt. What an ego.

allhans
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allhans 01/26/12 - 02:45 pm
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"Bob Dole said it best: "Why

"Bob Dole said it best: "Why do people take such an instant dislike to me?" asked Gingrich, to whom Dole replied "Because it saves them time"
.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/26/12 - 03:21 pm
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I heard it said that Dole's

I heard it said that Dole's personality and style as Senate Minority Leader was similar to Gingrich — petulant and grumpy.

If Gingrich is the nominee, he will be about as successful as Dole was in 1996.

Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 01/26/12 - 03:35 pm
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Romney is a gentleman and it

Romney is a gentleman and it is hard for a gentleman not to act like one. Sadly, that is working against him. On the other hand Newt is not a gentleman. He is a street fighter, a smart and well informed street fighter. Now, which would you rather have in the White House?

harley_52
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harley_52 01/26/12 - 03:59 pm
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Carleton, If those were the

Carleton, If those were the choices, I'd go with the street fighter. But in this case, the street fighter has just proven himself to be a bald faced liar, so I'm going with the gentleman.

Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 01/26/12 - 04:02 pm
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Harley, an obvious choice.

Harley, an obvious choice.

allhans
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allhans 01/26/12 - 04:15 pm
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I don't believe for a minute

I don't believe for a minute that Romney is not a strong person. He could never have achieved so much if he had been spineless. The fact that he took the Winter Olympics, which was collapsing, to a successful outcome should tell you that he is smarter than some are giving him credit.

allhans
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allhans 01/26/12 - 04:23 pm
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Carleton Duvall
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Carleton Duvall 01/26/12 - 04:56 pm
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Being a gentlemen and a

Being a gentlemen and a strong person are not a conflict. I know many such people.

Cadence
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Cadence 01/27/12 - 01:28 am
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I think that in reading this

I think that in reading this you guys have just made up my mind for me. Mitt Romney. I guess there is a reason that he has been on top of the pack the whole time while other took turns rising and falling. He is a gentleman, but there has to be steel under that polite and cool demeanor or he would not be where he is. LL's description of Newt as petulant and grumpy is very apt. We kind of already have that in the White House. But, before I commit, tell me why I should not go with Santorum. I really like him. He might be a good combination of street fighter and gentleman.

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