Newsweek cover story: Mitt Romney is too ‘conscientious,’ quality may cost him election

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney (Photo credit: Scott G. Winterton / Deseret News archives)

By Hal Boyd
Deseret News
September 26, 2011

Newsweek’s cover story on former Massachusetts’s Gov. Mitt Romney says the GOP presidential hopeful has one problem: he’s too “conscientious.”

“In fact,” the article’s author, Andrew Romano, writes, “it is the only trait of (Romney’s) that qualifies as clinically ‘prominent.’”

Romano’s assessment is based on research performed by Aubrey Immelman of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., an expert on the electoral effects of candidates’ personalities.

Immelman performs studies … “[yielding] the Personal Electability Index (PEI) … candidates with low PEI scores almost never get elected. Romney’s score is a six, which is abysmal. Barack Obama, by comparison, earned a 28, and even failed candidates such as Hillary Clinton and John McCain have cleared 20 (23 and 26, respectively).”

The reason for Romney’s low score, according to Immelman: today’s electorate rejects candidates who are considered “conscientious” or in other words “proper, diligent, detail-oriented and super-rational.”

According to the piece this wasn’t always the case — “Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson, and even James Madison won the White House because (not in spite) of their most Romneyesque qualities: politeness, caution, restraint, systematic thinking, a sense of duty and so on,” writes Romano. “But while earlier eras rewarded calculation — until the mid–20th century, public persuasion mattered less than methodical behind-the-scenes maneuvering — the 24/7 news cycle forces candidates to connect.”

Romney’s campaign has been striving hard to make Romney more palatable to modern-day voters. Stuart Stevens, “the man in charge of reshaping Mitt Romney’s image,” according to a NY Times profile of Stevens, he has by most accounts been doing a decent job.

“Mr. Stevens has brought to the Romney team a laid-back, hang-loose, though intense, vibe,” writes Ashley Parker in her profile of Stevens in the Times. “… Whereas Mr. Romney is a linear thinker who tends to home in on the details, Mr. Stevens is a creative, big-picture person who tries to focus on winning the election rather than simply winning the day.” …

Though “In a small group setting, particularly among similarly educated, successful individuals, he can charm and impress with (his) intellectual rigor,” Romney’s fellow colleague at Bain, Marc Wolpow, told Newsweek. “His challenge is that there are 300 million people in America. He seems to connect naturally with only a small handful of them.” Only time will tell if he can win over the others.

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