Mark Grimm


Republicans May Have Cost Romney the Presidency

Four years ago, Americans voted for hope and change. This time, they voted for the status quo — same president, same party controls each house. The nation remains divided about 50/50.

The election was more about why Mitt Romney lost than why President Obama won. Though Romney made his mistakes, fellow Republicans may have cost him the presidency. The bruising Republican primary put Romney in a deep hole in terms of likability and drained his resources, badly needed in the summer months when the Obama Team was pounding away at him. Gingrich and Santorum, with their shameless class warfare, spent a fortune attacking Romney.

Two Senate Republican candidates (Akin and Mourdock) made ridiculous statements on rape that were quickly wrapped around Romney’s neck. Romney’s gender gap was not all his own doing.

Had there been no storm, Romney may have won. He had the momentum and the polls were clearly moving in his favor. Then, the storyline changed and Obama capitalized on the moment. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dealt the final Republican blow. Yes, his responsibility in a time of crisis was to have a constructive relationship with the president. But that is a different thing than his over-the-top praise of the kind of leader Obama was. This was a central issue in the campaign and Christie knew it.

Christie no doubt feels genuine compassion for those affected in his state. But he also seized the political opportunity, grabbing the national spotlight to show how “bipartisan” he was. It was a calculation based on his own political self interest, fully aware an Obama win would create an open seat for president in 2016. This criticism gains validity given his “Christie Fest” keynote address at the GOP convention.

Mitt Romney was an imperfect candidate. His 47% remark hurt greatly, as did his “self deport” plan for illegal immigrants. The “Hispanic problem” looms as a great GOP challenge, especially given the key role they play in many swing states. Hispanics are a fast-growing group and they gave about 70% of their vote to Obama. The GOP must develop a workable immigration policy acceptable to their base and to Hispanics.

The voters did not reject Republican values on Election Day. Indeed, “the people’s house” remains firmly Republican. Candidate Mitt Romney found his stride demonstrated by his historic first debate performance. He came up just short in a race where Republican misbehavior may have been the difference.

The writer, a speaking and media coach, is a former elected official who has managed a number of campaigns that unseated entrenched incumbents.

Obama Wins On Points; Romney Passes Key Tests

President Barack Obama used an attacking style and an incumbent’s foreign policy advantage to win on points in his third presidential debate with Governor Mitt Romney. A CNN poll of debate viewers gave Obama a 48-40 edge.

Yet, Romney passed two important tests. Those same viewers placed the two men in a virtual tie on being commander-in-chief, a key test for any challenger in a foreign policy debate with a sitting president. Romney also gained a virtual tie (Obama 48%, Romney 47%) on likeability, a key Romney disadvantage in the campaign.

The President had a sharper focus on foreign policy issues, capitalizing on his first-hand experience. Romney was too vague and much more willing to agree with the president than in previous debates. Romney’s sharp pivot to domestic policy did help his cause, but his decision to pass on the Libya controversy indicated his strategy in debate three was to try to be more likable than forceful.

Obama repeatedly attempted to portray Romney as “reckless,” yet Romney gave him little ammunition. The challenger gave an extremely measured performance emphasizing peace and taking a much more conciliatory tone towards China. The voters must decide for themselves if this is shift in emphasis or a shift in position.

The final presidential debate was more of a chess match than a fist fight. We’ll have a better idea of who really won in two weeks.

The writer is a speaking coach, adjunct media professor, and former elected official.


Prez Debate Two: Each Exploits Opponent’s Weaknesses

In the second presidential debate, both men exploited their opponent’s weaknesses. President Obama was more assertive than the first debate, much better at punching back this time. He was more prepared on Mitt Romney’s record and had effective moments highlighting some of the inconsistencies in Romney’s record. He also turned the tables on Romney over the Libya attack, saying it was “offensive” to suggest they played politics there.

Romney, showing message discipline, pounded away at Obama’s jobs record, his biggest vulnerability. Romney’s best moment occurred when a black man, Michael Jones, stood up and told the president he voted for him last time but is undecided now, asking him, “What have you done?” to earn his vote. Romney followed Obama’s tepid response telling Jones you asked the question because “you’re not confident the next four years will be better.”

President Obama seemed a bit angrier than Romney, certainly not the cool hand we’re used to seeing. Moderator Candy Crowley said she didn’t sense personal animosity between the two men, saying it was more a case of them being “intense” and having a “sense of urgency.”

Romney mishandled the last question; “What’s the biggest misperception about you?” He repeated he is 100% for the people, a defensive response to his 47% remark. It opened the door for Obama who blasted him with it in his close. Obama’s stronger finish was a significant edge.

A CNN poll of debate watchers gave Obama a slight win over Romney, 46-39. That edge may be due to low expectations after his first debate. 73% of those polled said Obama did better than they expected. Obama stopped the slide from his first performance and Romney proved once again he can go toe-to-toe with the president of the United States.

Can’t wait for Round Three.

The writer is a speaking coach, political consultant, and former elected official.

What Mitt & Prez Need to Do in the Debate

Wednesday night’s debate offers Mitt Romney a chance to reverse the momentum in key battleground states. He has the most to gain, and to lose. Here’s what each candidate should do to capitalize on this unique opportunity.

Mitt Romney:

Romney’s biggest vulnerability is the prominent perception that he’s a rich guy who really doesn’t care about the average person. This has been carefully cultivated by the opposition and some media and enhanced by Romney’s own mistakes. This is why the infamous 47% tape was so damaging. His top priority must be to alter this perception. Otherwise, the race is over. Voters have no innate problem with rich candidates. FDR and JFK made that clear. The candidate doesn’t have to be like them, but the voters must feel the candidate is for them.

So Mitt, don’t offer any programmed language that shows you’re one of us. You’re not and that’ s OK. Give specific examples, in your background and policies, that show you’re human and you care.

Secondly, try to get under the President’s skin (in a nice way). The President’s “likability factor” is his biggest advantage over Romney. However, any President rarely faces a one-on-one confrontation where he is challenged in such direct terms. This is an adjustment and President Obama has shown a bit of a condescending streak (view Hillary is “likable enough” comment).

Barack Obama:

The President’s team decided long ago the path to re-election is to make Romney an unacceptable alternative. Many feel Obama’s economic record left them with no other choice politically. Indeed, the incumbent’s support remains below 50% in the polls. They have done a good job of creating a Romney caricature (Mitt’s personal negatives are sky high) and Obama must close the deal on that in the debate.

The president must keep his cool. He’s known for that. But it’s been four years since his last debate. He’s likely a little rusty. Romney had 20 raucous debates that nicked him up, but also toughened him up.

Romney must address the 47% issue head on and Obama must capitalize on it.

The real test for each candidate may well be what role he plays in any surprise, and debates often have them — Al Gore sighing, Nixon sweating profusely, Bush 41 checking his watch. The unanticipated moments are often the most revealing…and the ones that impact voters the most.

The writer is a speaking coach, political consultant, former TV anchor and former elected official. Tune in to this blog for a post-debate video analysis.