The Magazine

President Romney

Apr 30, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 31 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Romney might even consider offloading his entire opposition research and instant response operation to the Republican National Committee. Let the RNC and the super-PACs put out the statements denigrating the Democratic candidate. Romney should treat his opponent with respect not contempt, sobriety not snark, and good humor not sarcasm. Romney should run for president rather than run against Obama. Others can take care of making the anti-Obama case, focused on the past. He needs to make the case for his future presidency.

Part of making that case is winning over some citizens who voted for Obama in 2008. People don’t like being told they are, or were, stupid. If some previous Obama supporters are now disappointed—and they are—Romney should empathize with them, not condescend to them. In 2004 John Kerry unfailingly gave the impression that he thought if you had voted for Bush, or approved of anything he’d done, or found him in certain ways likable or admirable, then you were an idiot. That’s no way to beat an incumbent. His former supporters need to be won over rather than bludgeoned into submission. Reagan provided a strong contrast on the issues to Jimmy Carter in 1980. But his tone wasn’t snide or contemptuous. Romney—and especially his campaign, which has had a taste for the snide and the contemptuous—might profitably study Reagan’s 1980 effort.

The Reuters piece quoted above points out, sensibly enough, that “a tepid economic recovery, voter pessimism about the future and a job approval rating largely stuck in the danger zone below 50 percent mean Obama could have a hard time matching his performance in 2008, when enthusiasm for his promise of change propelled him to victory over Republican senator John McCain with 53 percent of the vote.” Even in 2008, this reminds us, Barack Obama was able to get only 53 percent of the vote, winning by about 7 points. And we’re not in 2008 anymore. Candidate Obama is now President Obama. His approval/disapproval numbers today are just about where they were in April 2010. And in November 2010, Republicans defeated Democrats by almost exactly the same 7-point margin in total votes cast in races for the House of Representatives. Romney needs to hold the swing voters who defected from Obama in 2010. They know the case against Obama. They need to hear the case for Romney.

If Romney can make that case, he has a very good chance to win. So when Romney-Ryan defeats Obama-Biden (or will it be Obama-Clinton?) by 53 to 46 percent on Election Day 2012—remember that you read it here first.

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