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The Insiders
Posted at 11:12 AM ET, 04/10/2012

Romney’s rich-guy problem

I agree so strongly with Ed's post from this morning that I wonder whether his server has been hacked by the DNC. As I read it, Ed is saying that President Obama will be tough to beat, not just because of his most obvious strength (his likability), but because in the end, his weakness, the economy, will work to his advantage.

Ed argues that economic insecurity may actually work to Obama's advantage. Voters may end up feeling that Romney's "laissez-faire" approach to the economy represents more risk to them than Obama's more statist approach. Especially now that the economy seems to be improving slightly.

I know Ed could make the counter-argument that Romney can win on the economy better than I can, but here goes. Romney’s problem is that his bio and his policies all seem to fit a man who is deaf or callous to the lives of most Americans. Son of privilege, Harvard-educated, multimillionaire at 30. That half of his resume is actually fairly similar in the broadest outlines to several American presidents: Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, both Bushes. But these leaders often escaped the stereotype of the out-of-touch rich guy. It wasn't just their personal demeanor; it was their rhetoric and policies. Roosevelt and Kennedy championed working people and stood up to powerful interests on their behalf. The Bushes, at least rhetorically, and in the case of the father, actually, embraced a more compassionate, people-oriented version of conservatism.

At the very least, Romney must do what the Bushes did, and there are signs that he is already adjusting his rhetoric. But he has made so many rhetorical missteps already that reinforce the stereotype — "corporations are people, too, my friend"; "I like firing people" — that this will not be enough.

Romney has to dig deeper than the old Republican economic playbook to increase his odds of winning. More tax cuts, less regulation and draconian cuts to student loans and other middle-class "hand-ups" while the Pentagon gets more money (see the Ryan budget that Romney is running on) is not going to convince people that Romney has broken the moldy mold of trickle-down economics. What many Republicans fail to see is that while there is widespread disappointment and doubt about Obama's economic policies, there is no desire to go back to policies that have been discredited. Romney is going to make it much harder on himself to win if he continues to carry that burden.

By  |  11:12 AM ET, 04/10/2012

 
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