Now that it's a virtual certainty Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee, and all the other candidates have likely dozed off with the rest of us during this preliminary series of political skirmishes, it's time to wipe the sleep from our eyes and get ready for presidential playoffs. What should be included in Romney's tactical playbook? Here are a few suggestions:
-- The world isn't the same as it was when President Obama was elected at the outset of the economic crisis. The whiny protesters spilling into the streets all over the Western world hate two things: Wall Street guys and the establishment. Unfortunately for Romney, he reeks of Eau d'Establishment. On the other hand, so does Obama these days. Best to play this as a draw. Own that fact and tell voters, "Hey, I'm a stuffed-shirt Wall Street guy, but so is he now." And leave it at that.
To paraphrase former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, you don't have to defeat God in an election -- just the other guy. The absolute worst thing an establishment guy can do is try to play a populist. The media has already been wondering how Romney will "connect" with Middle America. How about through authenticity rather than by manipulating voters by trying to pull off a believable personality transplant? The results of such transplants are usually disastrous. Former Canadian Liberal Party candidate Michael Ignatieff -- another Eau d'Establishment aficionado -- tried to offset his natural predisposition in campaign ads by filming them in the middle of a forest. But hanging out in the forest alone in a dress shirt as you lecture your fellow citizens on any intentions unrelated to the foliage in your immediate vicinity just makes you look "off."
-- Don't bother trying to dazzle with style; stick with substance. "Hope and change" isn't a threat anymore -- it's the political version of a used-car salesman's siren call. Voters have a thirst for the quiet depth required to solve today's challenging problems.
No one needs to be charismatic beyond having a pulse to get elected right now. Nicolas Sarkozy just lost the French presidency to Francois Hollande, whose most striking feature upon election was arguably his stunning lack of an entourage. While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has some fine conservative qualities, many a room has found itself wanting for light upon Harper entering. When the leadership on the world stage resembles a lunchtime Dungeons & Dragons club, the captain of the football team comes off as the weirdo. Even Vladimir Putin hasn't ripped off a shirt or wrestled a bear since reclaiming office.
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