Ed points smartly to the Republicans' growing anxiety that their only viable candidate — at least, declared candidate — is dissipating before their eyes. What should Mitt Romney do to turn his fortunes around?
He still has substantial advantages in cash and organization; he still has consultants who know how to slash and burn. But he is suffering from the malaise of marketers, who have an expression when everything seems right for success, but instead looms failure. “The dogs,” they say, ”just don't like the dog food.”
This is Mitt's dilemma, and it is a hard one to fix. People just don't like, trust, or connect with him enough. Nixon had this problem. Bush Senior had it with large crowds, unless Peggy Noonan scripted him, but was wonderful and warm in small settings and known for many acts of individual kindness. Reagan might have been the opposite of Bush: fully engaged when the light on the camera was on, but distant and vacant with it off. His biographer, Edmund Morris, had to use the techniques of fiction because Reagan's own understanding of his life seemed so vacuous.
Mike Murphy, who I would hire if I were a Republican, and who used to work for Mitt offers this advice.
He should drop the biography-based message. Nobody wants a well-intentioned accountant in charge when the house is on fire. For the first time in his professional life, Romney needs to stop thinking and calculating and get stupid. The race now is about his heart. What is his motive? Why is he so famously hardworking? Who does he worry about when he wakes up first thing in the morning? Voters may respect his success, but they do not think they truly know him. And while the cerebral Romney may recoil at the psychological striptease this requires, it is how people pick their President in modern America. Romney must fill that vacuum or else others will maliciously fill it for him.
Good advice. But hard to do. He needs to sit with Edmund Morris and Peggy Noonan and make his story poetic. The problem that's a long reach. He isn't even in prose yet, let alone poetry. He's stuck in data.