William McGurn is an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal — he writes the “Main Street” column for the Journal. Two days ago, he wrote “The ‘Likable’ Barack Obama”
Mr. Obama on Cloud 9 / Photo: AP
In 1980, Ronald Reagan zeroed in on the incompetence of Jimmy Carter, a good and decent man. That should be Mitt Romney’s strategy in 2012.
Between now and November 6th, I expect to see many comparisons to the Carter/Reagan contest of 1980; there are just too many similarities to ignore. However, I think Obama will eventually be critiqued by historians as a greater failure by comparison. That said, we can never allow ourselves to become complacent in our work to elect Mitt Romney as our next president.
There are tens of millions of voters out there that will vote on a smile, charisma, a good speech, and “likability.” Barack Obama can never be underestimated.
By WILLIAM MCGURN
How likable is Barack Obama?
Very likable, it seems, at least in contrast to his GOP rival. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released a few days ago, Americans by a more than 2-to-1 ratio say the president is more “friendly and likable” than Mitt Romney.
Look at the photo above — what’s not to like? In this American Idol age in which image is everything, it is no wonder that the casual voter will feel perfectly fine voting for the one they think they know rather than for the new guy. Especially if the new guy likes the Red Sox.
Many Republicans, and especially conservatives, can find these numbers hard to credit. Some note that the poll sampling favors Democrats and thus artificially inflates the president’s numbers. Still others have come to dislike President Obama so much that it makes them suspicious when they read numbers indicating they are in the minority.
The focus on likability is a mistake. It’s a mistake, first, for Democrats if they believe likability will be enough for Mr. Obama to win re-election come November. It’s even more of a mistake for those Republicans who believe that the only way to defeat the president is to get fellow Americans to dislike him as much as they do.
McGurn referred to “the unwitting arrogance” of Hilary Rosen and how the Obama administration trashed her in order not to appear connected to her.
Republicans ought not make this mistake with Mr. Obama. When Americans look at the president, many see a loving father with personal values they admire and an attractive wife and children. The administration understands this, which is why a recent Internet campaign ad asking voters to “help the Obamas stand up for working Americans” did so over a photo of the president, his wife and his two daughters.
I have seen this ad all over the Internet. It is most appealing. Mr. Obama is a nice guy!
Resurgent Republic, a conservative-leaning public research firm, found the same likability at work in recent focus groups of independents who had voted for Mr. Obama in 2008. The good news for Mr. Obama is that “these Obama Independents still like the president.”
The bad news for him is that “[w]hen asked what they like most about the president, participants refer almost solely to personal traits like his character and speaking skills. At best, they credit President Obama for trying.”
That helps explain why the same poll that showed the president more likable than Mr. Romney went on to report that a majority nonetheless thought the former Massachusetts governor would do a better job with the economy.
I would like to speak to one person who thinks that Mr. Obama would do a better job with the economy over Governor Romney — I have not met one yet.
Mr. Obama ought to be worried. Sixty-four percent also say the country is on the wrong track; [...] a number of Americans who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 are open to the idea that someone else could do a better job.
Now, the president’s likability doesn’t mean Mr. Romney shouldn’t go on the offensive. It does mean he ought to attack hardest where Mr. Obama is at his weakest: his failed policies. [...]
He also suggests conservatives drive home Obama’s incompetence.
Mr. Romney is hardly the first Republican presidential aspirant to take that tack against a Democratic incumbent. In 1980, Ronald Reagan zeroed in on Jimmy Carter’s competence. Plenty of Americans thought President Carter was a good and decent man too—but by election day Mr. Reagan had persuaded them that his rival just wasn’t up to the job.
The day after that election, Mr. Reagan’s pollster, Richard Wirthlin, explained the campaign this way: “We saw the opportunity for a role reversal—that is, by the end of the campaign, I think we came very close to having people look upon Ronald Reagan as more presidential than Jimmy Carter.”
Mr. Romney now has a similar opportunity. Certainly he can point out that Mr. Obama has no excuses. If ever the stars were in alignment for liberal Democratic policies to shine, it was during the first two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency, after he had handily defeated John McCain and been sent to Washington with huge, veto-proof majorities in Congress.
Mr. Romney already has the votes of those who dislike Mr. Obama. The votes he needs are there for the asking: folks who like Mr. Obama but have serious doubts about his leadership as president.
“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte
Humor? (hat tip to Steve Miller from Wisconsin for this image below the fold) (more…)