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Sunday, August 06, 2006

The competence candidate: Can Mitt Romney make competence sell?

After reading this Boston Globe piece today by Drake Bennett the question asked might be changed from "Can", to "Should Mitt Romney make competence sell?"

** Hat tip to Phil James at "Romney Report" for picking up on this piece in his hometown newspaper

A very interesting piece and worth reading the entire thing.

SHOULD HE RUN FOR PRESIDENT, Mitt Romney will have several things going for him. He is telegenic and articulate. He is a Republican who managed to get elected in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. And in Massachusetts's sweeping new healthcare plan he has at least one legislative achievement of note. But as a moderate one-term governor unknown in many parts of the country, he stands out from the pack of Republican hopefuls not due to a particular ideological position so much as a record as a manager and turnaround artist. Romney, in other words, would be running largely on competence.

Granted, Romney is about as competent and successful as they come. He exudes both competence and confidence.

Now would seem to be the right time for a Republican competence candidate. This spring the Pew Research Center reported that ``incompetent" had replaced ``honest" as the word people most often attach to President Bush. Democrats have made ``dangerous incompetence" a key talking point of their campaign to take back Congress-invoking the specter of the continuing bloodshed in Iraq and what they characterize as the administration's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

In this context, Romney's managerial skills have a special appeal. As one Republican strategist close to Romney put it, ``Mitt is the cerebral fix-it guy, the level head, the big brain who's cool in a crisis."

``I have a theory that people try to vote for what they think they didn't get last time," the strategist continued. ``What they think they didn't get last time was competence."

Well, that is obviously a matter of opinion and I feel like I could argue that point pretty well, but this is a Romney blog and not a Bush blog.

The article then goes on to say that the last Mass. Gov. to run for President, Dukakis in 1988, ran on ``competence, not ideology." That largely backfired on him.

The article continues:

``When people are voting for governors, they are in a sense electing the CEO of their state," someone whose job is to manage the government. ``There are a lot of very uncharismatic guys elected governor," he says, mentioning Iowa's Tom Vilsack and former Virginia governor (and Democratic presidential hopeful) Mark Warner. ``Romney," he adds, ``isn't one of them."

So, competence AND charisma . . . a potent combination that Romney truly embodies. The piece then delves further into the competence of previous presidents and how that didn't always turn into successful administrations. Bennett then concludes:

Of course, Romney of late has been sounding less like an evenhanded manager than a budding ideologue, emphasizing in a CSPAN interview that his values are ``on the same page" as those of the religious right and calling for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Here in Massachusetts, these sorts of comments invite suspicions that Romney is pandering to the conservative Republicans who matter so much in presidential primaries. He might, on the other hand, simply be expressing his actual views. Regardless, he can be comforted by the knowledge that voters tend to reward candidates who talk about their beliefs more than those who talk about their abilities.

Well, I believe in Romney's abilities, and know he's able to effectively and convincingly express his beliefs. Some seem to imply that you can't have both . . . Romney may prove them all wrong.


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