Another day, and yet another story about the Romney campaign’s efforts to get their man to open up more to voters. This time, it’s Jason Horowitz’s turn to tackle the subject, in the Washington Post Style section, and he does as good a job of it as anyone, if you ask me, because he correctly diagnoses the problem as one of “trying too hard.”
And like previous examples of the “what’s up with Mitt” genre, the piece includes examples of anecdotes that Romney’s supporters ardently believe that the candidate would do well to invoke more often on the trail. In this case:
“I worry about him,” said Clayton Christensen, a fellow Mormon, an influential business theorist and a friend of Romney’s.
In his office at Harvard Business School, surrounded by certificates and the books he has written — including “The Innovator’s Solution,” “The Innovator’s Prescription” and “The Innovator’s Dilemma” — Christensen argued that Romney should open up more. He said the candidate should talk about the way he navigated acrimonious negotiations between the selling partners and the junior partners at Bain and Co. during a near-mutiny that nearly sank the firm.
“Oh my gosh, if you could tell that story in the context of a bifurcated Congress that can’t agree on anything,” Christensen said, adding that there were “hundreds and hundreds of people whose livelihoods depended on this. Why can’t he tell us this story? Nobody knows.”
Nobody knows, Clayton? Really? Well, let me wager a guess. The episode that Christensen is talking about did feature Romney deftly negotiating among Bain & Company partners to save the firm, which had taken out huge loans as part of a plan to let senior partners cash out. But it also featured...a big federal bailout of the firm. As Michael Kranish and Scott Helman note in their indispensable new biography of Romney, a central part of Romney’s rescue plan was that he “convinced the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insures bank deposits, to forgive roughly $10 million of $38 million in loans owed to the failed Bank of New England.” The bailout was the subject of a tough attack ad created by Ted Kennedy’s campaign for his 1994 race against Romney, an ad that the campaign chose not to air in the final weeks of the race. And it is probably not a subject that Romney wants to be reminding voters of in the post-TARP era, when he is going around the country attacking Barack Obama for having bailed out the auto companies.
I’ll say it again—at this point Romney supporters probably need to stop imagining that there are some golden anecdotes out there that, all on their own, are going to magically humanize the candidate. Romney knows talking about his years as a Mormon lay minister means bringing up the time he urged one woman to continue her pregnancy over doctor’s orders, and urged another to give her baby up for adoption or risk being kicked out of the church. He knows telling the story about his and his sons’ Jet-Ski rescue of a stranded motorboat means reminding voters of his huge lakeside estate in New Hampshire. And he surely knows that telling the story about his Bain & Co. rescue means talking about federal bailouts. Heck, the one time in recent weeks when he did try to tell a nice story, he ended up laughing over his father’s layoffs of hundreds of Michigan workers. So let’s face it: Romney’s campaign has plenty of reasons to hope for a November win. But anecdotes aren’t going to do it.
follow me on Twitter @AlecMacGillis