Mitt Romney should be running away with this election. As I explained in my earlier post, the economy isn’t doing the American people or President Obama any favors. Yet, the presumptive Republican nominee running on his business experience and his promise to right what he says are the misguided policies of the incumbent is running behind in the latest battleground poll. Basically, Romney has a credibility problem. One that only he can solve. One that he doesn’t seem capable of solving.
As the New York Times reports this morning, Romney’s “candidacy remains tested by concerns over his business background and his reluctance to release more of his tax returns.” Both of these issues get to his credibility for some voters. The sustained attacks by the Obama campaign on Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital have helped that concern along. Romney’s own refusal to release more of than two years of his tax returns are contributing to the view that he has something to hide. And I contend that all of this is making it difficult for Romney’s economic message to break through.
Why should voters trust his plans for job creation if his tenure at Bain was about cutting jobs or shipping them overseas? Why should voters trust him to fix the tax code in a manner that would be fair to all and not simply the wealthy like him?
The tax-return issue is especially harmful because he looks shifty, like he has something to hide. His worry that his critics will use them to embarrass him, while understandable, is of no consequence to the American public. They are asked to produce multiple years of tax returns for plenty of things less important than the privilege of being president of the United States. Romney is asking the American people to trust him with their lives and livelihood. The least he could do is be transparent about his finances.
But that’s part of Romney’s problem, isn’t it? Transparency. Letting people see who he really is. Romney simply won’t allow himself or isn’t even comfortable talking about the very things that make him who he is. He won’t talk about his faith in any depth. He won’t talk about his wealth with any self-assurance or comfort. He won’t even dare talk about his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. Joe Scarborough nailed it when we discussed this earlier today.
The biggest problem is that Mitt Romney either doesn’t know who he is or he doesn’t want Americans to know who he is....What are the three defining things of Mitt Romney’s personal and political life? They’re actually three M’s....The first “M” is Mormonism. He’s proud to be a Mormon but can’t embrace it too closely for a lot of different reasons. The second “M” is money. He is a money man. He’s done extraordinarily well. Talk to Democrats. Talk to people that worked alongside him....They will tell you. He did great work setting up Bain Capital. But he’s sort of afraid to go there. And then the third is Massachusetts. He doesn’t want to talk about his Massachusetts record because he was basically the godfather, at least intellectually, of Obamacare.
When you can’t talk about who you are, when you can’t talk about what you believe, when you can’t talk about the core of what you have been over five decades, then you’ve handcuffed yourself and you’re not going to be able to do what you need to do to win elections. I think that’s his biggest problem, not just a failure to communicate, but the failure to embrace his own biography....
Because he can’t talk about who he is or what he believes — if he truly believes in anything — people don’t trust him. They don’t have a favorable view of him. They don’t think he understands them. And as the Quinnipiac-New York Times-CBS News poll of likely voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida makes clear, they don’t think he cares about the needs and problems of people like them. Until Romney is more comfortable with himself, he won’t be credible to enough voters to feel comfortable putting him in the White House.