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Mitt Romney and the ‘wimp’ factor

at 07:35 AM ET, 07/30/2012

Is Mitt Romney too wimpy to be president?


U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivers foreign policy remarks at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem, July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed
That’s the (purposely) provocative question Newsweek asks on its cover this week. It’s a question sure to stir controversy — and one without an easy answer.

Newsweek seems to define Romney’s alleged “wimpiness” as a sort of wide-ranging insecurity that forces the Republican presidential candidate into a series of gaffes like the ones he committed in London late last week.

Writes Newsweek’s Michael Tomasky:

“He’s kind of lame, and he’s really ... annoying. He keeps saying these ... things, these incredibly off-key things. Then he apologizes immediately—with all the sincerity of a hostage. Or maybe he doesn’t: sometimes he whines about the subsequent attacks on him. But the one thing he never does? Man up, double down, take his lumps.”

That seems overly harsh, but you get the idea. Americans want strong leaders telling them hard truths, Tomasky argues, and Romney isn’t it.

There is some polling evidence that suggests that Romney has not yet passed the commander-in-chief test, which, of course, isn’t a test at all, but rather a sort of perception hurdle about whether the former Massachusetts governor looks like he is up to the task of representing America on the world stage.

In an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released last week, 45 percent of respondents said President Obama would make the better commander in chief, while 35 percent said Romney would. Forty-eight percent said Obama was “knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency,” while 32 percent said that phrase better described Romney.

The problem with the “Romney as wimp” idea is that, for lots and lots of voters — including many undecideds — the race is just beginning. They know little to nothing about Romney other than, maybe, that he is/was a businessman. They know far too little about him to conclude he is a “wimp” or almost anything else at the moment. (That’s a big difference between Romney and George W.H. Bush, the last Republican candidate to be labeled a “wimp”by Newsweek; Bush had spent seven years as vice president of the United States when the cover ran in 1987.)

Obama, on the other hand, has been president for the last four years (or so), and so it’s not terribly surprising that people are more inclined to see him as commander in chief since, well, that’s what he’s been for the past several years.

All of that doesn’t take away from the fact that Romney’s European trip — or at least the London leg of it — wasn’t very good. But Romney still has the Republican National Convention and then the three general election debates to close the commander-in-chief gap.

Romney, not surprisingly, was dismissive of the idea. “If I worried about what the media said, I wouldn’t be getting much sleep, but I’m able to sleep pretty well,” he told CBS’ Jan Crawford on Sunday.

Romney’s right not to worry — yet. In an election about the economy — and nothing but the economy — the most important thing for the GOP nominee is to appear to be a credible alternative to the incumbent on that front. If Romney can’t make that sale between now and mid-October, he likely won’t win. But he’s still got plenty of time to do it.

Romney team launches small business offensive: Romney’s campaign is launching dozens of events this week seeking to play up Obama’s “You didn’t build that” and “It worked” comments by featuring small business owners.

The effort will include 19 events in 12 states on Monday, along with dozens more events the rest of the week. The campaign is also releasing a web video.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich will all take part in the events.

“When President Obama stated ‘you didn’t build that,’ it exposed his flawed core beliefs when it comes to the economy,” said Romney senior advisor Danny Diaz. “The president believes that government creates jobs and thinks his failed policies have ‘worked,’ but nothing could be further from the truth.”

Obama’s campaign, meanwhile, is out with a web video playing up its volunteer efforts 100 days out.

DCCC targets tax cuts for wealthy: House Democrats are launching online ads targeting nearly two dozen House GOP incumbents on tax breaks for the wealthy.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ads feature a picture of a robe-clad man sitting outside his mansion, followed by pictures of an expensive boat, airplane and beach house, as the narrators talks about how Republicans favor cutting the man’s taxes.

The ads are targeting: Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-01), Rep. Dan Lungren (CA-07), Rep. Jeff Denham (CA-10), Rep. Mary Bono Mack (CA-36), Rep. Brian Bilbray (CA-52), Rep. Steve King (IA-04), Rep. Judy Biggert (IL-11), Rep. Bobby Schilling (IL-17), Rep. Larry Bucshon (IN-08), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), Rep. Jon Runyan (NJ-03), Rep. Joe Heck (NV-03), Rep. Michael Grimm (NY-11), Rep. Nan Hayworth (NY-18), Rep. Chris Gibson (NY-19), Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-24), Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-06), Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Rep. Tim Murphy (PA-18), Rep. Kristi Noem (SD-AL), Rep. Scott DesJarlais (TN-04), Rep. Scott Rigell (VA-02)

The DCCC hasn’t said how much it’s spending on the ads.

Fixbits:

Romney says he’s not sure if he has ever paid less than the 13.9 percent tax rate he paid in 2010.

An internal poll for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s Senate campaign shows him leading former state solicitor general Ted Cruz 48 percent to 43 percent in Tuesday’s GOP runoff.

A new Democratic poll in North Dakota shows former attorney general Heidi Heitkamp (D) asserting a six-point lead in the state’s open Senate race.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson says there is no timetable for his son’s return to Congress. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) has been dealing with some mysterious personal problems.

Rep. Vern Buchana n (R-Fla.) will take part in a sworn deposition Monday and Tuesday as he continues to face a dispute with his former business partner.

The U.S. men’s basketball team has nothing but love for Michelle Obama.

A climate change skeptic who has benefitted from the funding of the Koch brothers reverses course, saying climate change is real and is caused by man.

Must-reads:

Romney in Israel: ‘Any and all measures’ should be used to dissuade Iran” — Philip Rucker and Joel Greenberg, Washington Post

Romney’s problem? Americans don’t like him as much as Obama, polls say” — Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

Health insurance mandate faces huge resistance in Oklahoma” — Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post

For Lamontagne, political itch persists” — Matthew Spolar, Concord Monitor

 
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