Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Romney's Roller-Coaster

Romney's campaign looks like a ride on a Six Flags roller-coaster. Beginning his campaign with little name recognition, then rising high to become the odds-on favorite to win Iowa and New Hampshire, he has now plummeted into a do-or-die contest in New Hampshire after his stunning defeat in Iowa. Why? There are seven reasons why he has plummeted, but may yet rise again.

First, Romney suffers from the excesses of media pundits, who consistently magnify wins and losses under a high-powered microscope. A win by Romney in New Hampshire, even a narrow one, would cause the same pundits who pronounced "last rites" on his campaign after Iowa to proclaim that he had risen from the dead in New Hampshire.

Second, history reveals that Romney could become like many other presidential candidates who have risen and fallen on the presidential campaign roller-coaster, including George Bush I and II, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy.

Third, when the Republican presidential power brokers take stock of Huckabee's rapid rise on the roller-coaster, noting that he takes decidedly non-Republican positions on several key issues, including taxes, they may begin to look for someone to stop him. Who better than a bright, articulate and wealthy candidate like Romney with a good storyline as a successful venture capitalist and savior of the 2002 Olympics? To do this he must muscle out John McCain, preferably in New Hampshire, but certainly no later than Michigan, because McCain's recent rise on the roller-coaster could make him the power brokers' anti-Huckabee candidate. Against McCain Romney has the advantages of superior fundraising power and a nationwide organization.

Fourth, Romney can now begin to portray himself as the underdog against Huckabee, an approach that has helped many candidates, such as John F. Kennedy against Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey in 1960, and Ronald Reagan against John Connelly in 1980. Americans always seem to have a soft spot in their hearts for the underdog as they did for Huckabee in Iowa.

Fifth, Republicans need a candidate who can penetrate the Big Ten electoral vote states -- Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, California, Texas, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, especially those in the northeast where Democrats have a significant advantage -- while at the same time appealing to the single largest regional bloc of electoral votes, the south. Romney's background as the Governor of Massachusetts and his southern policy appeal could make him that candidate, particularly if packaged with a strong southern vice presidential candidate, such as Huckabee.

Sixth, Romney has yet to effectively utilize his large and attractive family, consisting of an articulate wife and five handsome sons. On this matter he should take a page from Kennedy's 1960 campaign when his family became a centerpiece.

Seventh, can Romney become just a little bit like Huckabee, exuding personal warmth? Huckabee exudes passion and his audiences respond in kind. Because it's do or die for Romney, he should "let his hair down," becoming less polished and formal and more informal and approachable.

It's a tall order for Romney. But history could repeat itself by giving him another roller-coaster rise.

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