With the upcoming presidential election only a month away, I thought I would share some thoughts on how to interpret a lot of the things going on with this election. I have received many calls from people asking about all the polls that show President Obama leading Mitt Romney. I am not a big believer in polls, but I do think it is safe to conclude that Obama is ahead by some measure – one can argue with the spread, but not with the fact that Obama has a lead.
My rule of thumb when it comes to polls is, if you are trying to explain why and how a poll is flawed, then you are admitting you are behind in the race. The past two weeks the Republicans have been all over the media talking about how all the polls are skewed towards Obama, trying to explain the methodology behind polling, and how previous Republicans were in similar positions to Romney.
To my good Republican friends, stop while you are behind. No one believes your spin and Romney has run the worst presidential campaign in history. If Romney and his campaign had spent as much time laying out a clear vision for his election as he has trying to explain away the polls, then maybe he would be ahead.
The second thing to look for with this election is the debates, the first of which was held Wednesday. Debates cannot help you, they can only hurt you. The problem with the Romney campaign isn’t that enough people have not heard him speak. The problem is people have heard him speak and they don’t like what he is saying.
On paper, Romney should have demolished Obama by now. Obama has been very inept in his handling of the economy and this election is well suited for someone with Romney’s background. But Democrats decided to “Swift Boat” Romney. They have been masterful in taking Romney’s strength—his business experience—and turning it into a huge liability.
This is what happens when you nominate a candidate with absolutely no core beliefs. Romney has never told the American people why he wants to be president of the U.S. If you have no core beliefs, it’s impossible for you to convince the public that you are the best man for the job. [campaign] parish.
The final thing to look for in this election is likability. A lot of the electorate is not happy with the job Obama has done, especially his mishandling of the economy, but they genuinely like him. Romney has effectively been portrayed as a rich, out of touch, elitist who doesn’t care and can’t relate to the average person. Therefore, he has very high negatives when it comes to likability.
This has led the electorate to display symptoms of cognitive dissonance. In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the inability to see what you don’t believe. Romney has much more experience in dealing with economics and job creation than Obama; but because people don’t like Romney, they are willing to vote for someone who is actually less able to handle a troubled economy.
This is the biggest problem Romney is facing. A good performance during a debate will not change this dynamic. Romney coming out with a big, bold, detailed set of policy papers, won’t help turn his campaign around.
The only thing that can help Romney is for him to drive Obama’s negatives sky high. The problem with this approach is that it will be filtered through a racial lens—since Obama is the first Black president in the history of the U.S. Unfortunately, I have already seen signs of Republicans going down this road and it’s only going to get worse.
As usual, Republicans will go too far on the race issue and it will blow up in their faces because these tactics will repulse the electorate.
Romney’s fate, in many ways, are tied to some unforeseen event that may or may not happen. His lack of any core guiding principles, high negatives, and his association with a party that has a horrible brand, have all converged to make it a huge mountain to climb. But, it has also caused people to vote ina manner that may not be in their own best interest—the inability to see what you don’t believe.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. •