In the End, It’s Mitt

Mitt Romney makes a campaign stop on Sept. 27 at an American Legion post in Springfield, Virginia.

Mitt Romney makes a campaign stop on Sept. 27, 2012 at an American Legion post in Springfield, Virginia. (Photo: M. Scott Mahaskey / POLITICO)

By Mike Allen, Jonathan Martin and Jim Vandehei Logo - Click to return to home page
September 28, 2012

It isn’t the chair or the ho-hum convention. Or the leaked video. Or Stuart Stevens. Or the improving economy. Or media bias. Or distorted polls. Or the message. Or Mormonism.

It’s Mitt.

With Republicans everywhere wondering what has happened to the Mitt Romney campaign, people who know the candidate personally and professionally offer a simple explanation: It’s the candidate himself.

Slowly and reluctantly, Republicans who love and work for Romney are concluding that for all his gifts as a leader, businessman and role model, he’s just not a good political candidate in this era.

It kills his admirers to say it because they know him to be a far more generous and approachable man than people realize — far from the caricature of him being awkward or distant — and they feel certain he would be a very good president. …

He treats his staff with respect, works hard on his weaknesses and does all of it because he possesses supreme confidence in his capacity to lead effectively.

“He’s a great leader, but he’s not a great politician,” said a top member of Romney’s organization. “As much as we complain about politicians, we like a good politician. He doesn’t have the hand-on-the-shoulder thing. He’s not quick-witted. He’s an analytical, data-driven businessperson.”

And that’s the problem: His résumé and his personal style seem ill-suited for the moment. He’s a son of privilege who made hundreds of millions in private equity who is running in the first election since the 2008 economic meltdown — a meltdown many blame on rich, Wall Street tycoons. And he’s a socially stiff relic of a pre-ironic America, who struggles with improvisation and personal connections when the constant lens of the Web demands both. …

Campaign officials, in the end, think likability is the least of his issues. The much bigger one is this sense that Romney is not comfortable in his skin, at least the conservative, no-compromise skin he had to put on to win the nomination. …

Romney is cautious by nature, which paid off in business. But in politics, rather than chart a bold course and stick with it, he winds up trimming and dodging in ways that, cumulatively, sink in with voters. …

Romney refers frequently and unabashedly to his late father, George, a former  Michigan governor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development who lost the Republican presidential nomination to Nixon in 1968. In interviews, Romney even throws in verbatim recitations of his dad’s business precepts. The tributes are touching but make friends wonder how much of the son’s quest is based on family honor or expectations, rather than the internal fire that animates most winning politicians. …

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