Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is going better than most Republicans ever dreamed. His economic message is sharp. He’s cut down on gaffes, and his opponent is facing withering criticism for his attacks on Bain Capital. The media are criticizing the mistake-prone Obama team. The majority of voters think that President Obama has performed poorly on the economy. But Romney’s team should not get cocky. For if the Romney campaign thinks the rest of the race will be smooth sailing, it surely will stumble when:
●Media proclaim that President Obama has “corrected course” and “made a startling turnaround.”
●The labor participation rate sinks so low that the unemployment rate drops below 8 percent (“Obama pushes unemployment below 8 %!”).
●Obama performs adequately in the wake of an Israeli military strike against Iran, even though his own sanctions policy failed and he subcontracted protection of the Free World to Israel (“Obama doesn’t condemn Bibi!”).
●Romney’s innocuous comments (“The president is a nice enough guy” or “He doesn’t understand economics”) are labeled “racist.”
●Whomever Romney selects as his vice presidential candidate is labeled “boring” and a sign of Romney’s “excessive caution,” or alternatively tagged as “a mistake of Sarah Palin-like proportions.”
●Obama’s convention speech is acclaimed as “vintage Obama,” while Romney’s speech is derided as “pedestrian,” “dull” or “Bush-like.”
●The left-wing media elites react with horror when the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, creating a “constitutional” crisis or something.
In other words, it is folly to think that the Obama campaign will disintegrate or that the president’s media spinners will turn on him. The Romney team must be at the ready in the months ahead with policies (e.g., an Obamacare alternative, immigration reform) and positions (what if Israel is forced to attack Iran?). Romney’s team must don temperamental armor to withstand real and invented errors. In debates and interviews, Romney must not appear disrespectful of the president, but neither should he let gross distortions of the president’s or his own record take hold. The temptation to complain about biased media will be great, but Romney must ignore it, let the media critics deal with distorted and unfair coverage, and avoid whining.
We’ve seen with Obama that arrogance leads to overreach and tone-deafness. Insulation deprives a campaign of outside perspectives and an early warning system that the candidate has stumbled or that incoming fire is about to hit. Honest and constructive criticism is essential of presidential candidates and is invariably in short supply. Like the Roman emperors to whom slaves would whisper in their ears during triumphal processions, “All glory is fleeting,” Romney, if he doesn’t already, should have a trusted adviser or two to remind him, “Don’t get cocky.”