“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”
– Ronald Reagan
It’s important to be yourself.
Cool, collected, knowledgeable, sharp, cocky enough to look confident but not look like a jerk, add a touch of Denis Leary-like sarcasm, and that’s how Mitt Romney appeared in the first of three presidential debates that aired Tuesday night.
He also looked extremely moderate, which is not how he’d been portraying himself during the last year of campaigning.
Romney reinvented himself in this debate. It was a brilliant move. Obama’s team had planned for a conservative I-formation offense. But Romney used the spread option and pulled off the biggest upset since Appalachian State over Michigan.
Through the “Hunger Games”-like battles of the primaries Romney played the role of a red-state ultra-conservative. He was ready to cut taxes even further for the richest Americans. He claimed half of Americans are freeloaders who don’t work and “will never take responsibility for their lives.” He sounded like someone totally out of touch with regular America.
But on Tuesday he re-emerged as the moderate he really is, as we barrel closer toward the general election. He focused on middle-class Americans, and despite his shadowy past at Bain and Co., he made a solid connection with regular, working-class people, which is what most Americans are. It was a smart move.
As a Republican, you have to be a moderate to be voted into the governor’s Mansion in Taxachussetts. You also have to be moderate to win swing states like Florida, Ohio, North Carolina or Nevada. You also have to be yourself.
Presidential hopeful John McCain blew it in 2008 by enlisting aerial wolf hunter Sarah Palin as a running mate and pretending to be as far right as Texas Sen. John Cornyn (the same guy who compared same-sex marriage to people sleeping with box turtles). McCain has always been a moderate in the Senate, willing to work across the aisle time and time again, but he changed who he was in the presidential election and it cost him a chance to become Leader of the Free World.
But despite their differences behind the podium, Romney and Obama both have the same goals. They just have different ideas of how to achieve those goals. Romney wants lower taxes in the hopes of promoting job growth and to reduce spending by kicking Big Bird off the welfare roll. Obama wants to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans and use that money to pay off the deficit and spend more on infrastructure project.
They both also want to increase middle-class level jobs.
That probably goes beyond anything either of them can or will do. Manufacturing in this country has steadily declined ever since we began enacting a slew of free trade agreements – and along with it the American dream for most people. How can you build a strong nation and strong middle class when we create less and less things you can actually hold in your hand at home?
I don’t know which candidate is better for the job, but I do know it’s important to be yourself.
Romney proved that Tuesday night.