USNews and World Report  —  Thomas Jefferson Street Blog 8/10/2012

Mitt Romney’s Problem Isn’t Obama—It’s Mitt Romney


Mitt Romney has a problem. And it isn’t his campaign strategy or strategists. It isn’t President Obama’s campaign strategy or strategists. Mitt Romney’s problem is Mitt Romney.

The current rash of polls clearly show that with more exposure, more time on the campaign trail, more time traveling abroad to “highlight” his foreign policy credentials, and the more he hides his tax returns, the worse Romney does with voters.

While President Barack Obama’s blackboard is pretty much completely written on, Romney’s blackboard is getting filled with information about the former Massachusetts governor that is hurting him, especially among independents. Sure, some of it is due to Obama ads and the national dialogue, but most of it is due to Romney himself.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

This is all about who Mitt Romney really is; this is about his background, his judgment.

Both the new CNN and Fox polls show the public is beginning to get Romney’s number. Over the summer, his favorable rating dropped six points to 48 percent; his negative has risen five points. It is worse with independents, with favorable ratings dropping eight points. These numbers are according to Fox, which has Obama leading Romney by 49-40 percent.

CNN has Obama leading by 52-45 percent, with similar drops in Romney’s favorable and increases in his unfavorable ratings. With the crucial swing voters who identify themselves as independents, Romney has seen his unfavorable go from 40 percent to 52 percent.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

The key question asked by CNN was whether or not Romney favors the rich over the middle class. Basically, two thirds of all Americans see Romney as a creature of the super wealthy who fights for the super wealthy. Now, 64 percent of all Americans believe Romney favors the rich over the middle class and 68 percent of independents have that belief. Even 67 percent of independents say he should release more tax returns.

Bottom line: Voters are not comfortable with who Mitt Romney is. They weren’t comfortable during the primaries and they aren’t comfortable now. The more they learn about Mitt Romney, the less they like him.

Do they believe he changes his positions on key issues on a dime to get elected? Sure. Do they believe he has a tin ear and can’t seem to get it right, as with his foreign travels or liking to “fire people?” Sure. Do they feel nervous about his time at Bain Capital, his foreign bank accounts, and shell corporations? Absolutely.

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Does Romney Need to Say More About His Personal Finances?]

Fundamentally, this is personal. They know that Romney has worked the system to his advantage, paid little or no taxes, hidden his operations behind a phalanx of accountants and lawyers. He might even get away with being a “master of the universe” if he supported policies that helped the middle class. He might be able to convince voters that he cared about them if he denounced loopholes like Swiss bank accounts, Bermuda dummy corporations, even something as fundamental to his wealth as the carried interest deduction. “Yes, I took advantage of things that were legal, but I am going to close these loopholes when I am president.”

But Mitt Romney stays with his fundamental belief system—stays with policies that give even more tax breaks to the super wealthy and leave the middle class paying the bill. This may be his Bain background, it may be what he really believes, but it is not what the American people believe or need right now when they are hurting. This is back to the future economics and it shows a lack of sensitivity to middle class families.

After all the ads, after all the polls, after all the back and forth, Mitt Romney is still Mitt Romney. And that dog won’t hunt.