You are a successful man with a great looking family. By all indications, you are a man of honor.
It is clear you could win this election. Your fundraising results have been spectacular in recent weeks. And you are within the margin of error in most presidential polls, including swing states. But the truth is, you could be ahead.
The economic recovery seems stalled and people are losing faith in the American dream. Being in an election year and being the challenger, it is fair game that you blame the incumbent, Barack Obama. Also, politics being the bloody sport that it is, you can take some liberty and attack the fictional Obama as well–you know, the one with the “questionable” birth certificate and the socialist program of healthcare, although this can be risky with an already cynical electorate.
You can even do fundraisers with people like the Koch brothers, whose father began the libertarian crusade back during FDR’s times, or Donald Trump, who is more a joke and a celebrity that a real businessman. You can even be excused for running from Romneycare or your less-than-spectacular record on job creation as governor (47th in the nation). But this will not be enough to sell yourself to the voter looking for an alternative to Obama.
Obama is attacking you by targeting your years with Bain Capital. Knowing the primary goal of a private equity firm, I found the Obama campaign’s commercial a little rich. But you and your advisors have chosen to talk about the jobs you created through Bain, instead of emphasizing your success and acumen as a business executive and your achievements as governor. So Bain is now an issue when it should never have become one.
As I noted in my latest column, Newscorp exec Rupert Murdoch and legendary businessman Jack Welch complained about your staff, saying they are no match for Obama’s operatives. That too was a little exaggerated and somewhat premature. But the mixed messages on the post-SCOTUS ruling on healthcare was admittedly quite confusing, and it has provided ammunition for Murdoch and Welch. Doubt has now set in within the ranks of the GOP.
Lately, the focus has been on your tax returns and your overseas bank accounts. At first glance, there seems to be nothing improper or illegal. The problem rests more with the fact that you released only one year worth of papers. Your dad, in pre-Watergate days, released multiple years. You have now created a perception problem here. If you have nothing to hide, as you indicated, why not overrule your advisors and release records for the past decade? This will put the issue to rest and you will gain in the process.
Doing so might actually be a game changer. Recently, I wrote that Obama’s likeability factor gave him an advantage. You need your own likeability factor–and you need it fast. After you ran for Senate (in 1994), successfully managed the Salt Lake Winter Olympics (in 2002), were the governor of Massachusetts for four years (from 2004 to 2008) and ran twice for the GOP presidential nomination (in 2008 and 2012) people are still asking: Who is the real Mitt Romney?
Don’t get me wrong. You can continue your campaign of not adequately reacting to Obama’s depiction of your record at Bain, persist in refusing to release more tax returns or explaining why you have a Swiss bank account, and keep blaming Obama for all the ills of the nation–real or imagined–without counter-proposals. After all, you are in the margin of error in all polls. Right? Well, maybe not.
My hunch is that people have to feel like they’re getting to know the real you and they cannot wait much longer. Voters need to have answers: Who is this man, who has changed his long-held views on abortion, climate change, same-sex civil unions, and the individual healthcare mandate, all in time for the GOP presidential race? What are his most profound beliefs? They’ll want to know where your line in the sand lies at the end of the day. When the answers come to all these questions, you may be surprised to find yourself ahead in the polls, and well above the margin of error.
Food for thought.