The Washington Post

Obama and Romney offer a vivid contrast in style

Mitt Romney's smooth transition to being the Republican nominee continued last night. His honeymoon has lasted longer than I expected. The Romney campaign hasn't suffered any self-inflicted wounds in the last couple of weeks and the Obama White House seems to be tossed by events rather than controlling them. From the Secret Service scandal to ominous signs in North Korea to lousy economic data, President Obama is on his back foot. His spokesmen's hollow anti-Romney talking points and fist-shaking seem to make the president look smaller.

As I watched Romney's very good victory speech last night, I was reminded of what a vivid stylistic contrast Romney and Obama offer voters: the exotic Obama vs. the plain, wholesome Romney. The president, cool and cerebral, vs. the chipper, happy and matter-of fact Romney. The aloof professor vs. the can-do business man. The former smoker vs. the teetotaler and smoke-free Romney. Can anyone imagine Romney holding a cocktail while smoking a cigarette?

Anyway, stylistic contrast is not as important as policy differences, but it is important.  Voters either want a change or they don't.  From Eisenhower to Kennedy, Nixon/Ford to Jimmy Carter and Reagan/Bush to Bill Clinton, a vivid change in persona and style is often part of the winning formula.

People like Obama, but if they want a new, fresh start, Romney offers a vivid change, even if you don't clearly understand the candidates' differences on every issue.

Style matters. And if Romney doesn't have any, maybe that is part of what will be reassuring and appealing to voters. Dorky and bland could be the new cool and hip in 2012.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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