Is Romney His Own Worst Enemy?

Mike Allen, Jonathan Martin, Jim Vandehei

It isn’t the chair or the ho-hum convention. Or the leaked video. Or Stuart Stevens. Or the improving economy.  Or media bias. Or distorted polls. Or the message. Or Mormonism.

It’s Mitt.

With Republicans everywhere wondering what has happened to the Mitt  Romney campaign, people who know the candidate personally and professionally  offer a simple explanation: It’s the candidate himself.

Slowly and reluctantly, Republicans who love and work for Romney are  concluding that for all his gifts as a leader, businessman and role model, he’s  just not a good political candidate in this era.

It kills his admirers to say it because they know him to be a far more  generous and approachable man than people realize — far from the caricature of  him being awkward or distant — and they feel certain he would be a very good  president.

“Lousy candidate; highly qualified to be president,” said a top Romney  official. “The candidate suit fits him unnaturally. He is naturally an  executive.”

Romney himself has been a tough self-critic, telling “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley he has only  himself to blame for missteps such as the secret video of him writing off 47  percent of Americans as ungovernable and out of reach to him politically. “[T]hat’s not the campaign. That was me, right?” He made a similar remark when  questions were raised about his campaign during the primaries, telling  reporters: “The candidate sometimes makes some mistakes, and so I’m trying to do  better and work harder.”

That comment captures precisely why his closest confidants think he is a much  better, bigger and more qualified man than often comes through on the trail. He  treats his staff with respect, works hard on his weaknesses and does all of it  because he possesses supreme confidence in his capacity to lead effectively.

“He’s a great leader, but he’s not a great politician,” said a top member of  Romney’s organization. “As much as we complain about politicians, we like a good  politician. He doesn’t have the hand-on-the-shoulder thing. He’s not  quick-witted. He’s an analytical, data-driven businessperson.”

And that’s the problem: His résumé and his personal style seem ill-suited for  the moment. He’s a son of privilege who made hundreds of millions in private  equity who is running in the first election since the 2008 economic meltdown — a  meltdown many blame on rich, Wall Street tycoons. And he’s a socially stiff  relic of a pre-ironic America, who struggles with improvisation and personal  connections when the constant lens of the Web demands both.

Others have overcome innate political limitations on the way to the White  House, including George H.W. Bush and Richard Nixon. But for Romney to do so,  his advisers know they have 40 days to make his fundamental strength — a track  record of high professional achievement — erase concerns about his weaknesses as  a political performer.

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  1. Richard Engle, 30 September, 2012

    I have met and spoken to Gov. Romney 3 times – one conversation was lengthy. As a long term active Republican who did not support him early on for reasons of public policy distinctions, I can say that he is far more personable and approachable than his public image would ever suggest. I found him to be very genuine and likable. He is more down to earth than several other Republicans who ran this time and four years ago.

    It is a mystery to me why his handlers have not been able (so far) to get the real Mitt out to the people. There is a real guy in there. Let him out!


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