Has Mitt Romney got what it takes?

US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney combination picture Mitt Romney is expected to rack up the 1,144 delegates he needs to become the official Republican challenger to Barack Obama in Tuesday's Texas primary

Mitt Romney looks the part. He seems the sort of guy Hollywood would once have cast to play a president.

Confident, distinguished and handsome, with an easy smile. The father of the nation.

The White House are hoping that cosy picture will hurt him, and will try to turn it into a vulnerability.

When Mr Romney crosses the Texas finishing line he will be that much closer to becoming America's 45th president in reality.

Opinion polls suggest that President Barack Obama and Mr Romney are pretty much neck and neck.

'A regular guy'?

It is not surprising the Obama White House is ready for him. After all, he has always been the Republican front-runner, the one the most level-headed pundits have always thought would be the Republican candidate in the end.

But that end has been a while coming. It has been a bitter, gruelling fight as conservatives tried one candidate after another to find someone closer to their taste.

The central problem was that they were not sure that in his heart, he was a real conservative. He was accused of flip-flopping on a whole host of issues.

That will matter less now and his other weakness will matter more.

He has, so far, failed to inspire. He is a good debater but only a patchy speaker. He doesn't have "it" - he is not a candidate bathed in charisma.

The Democrats are making much of his privileged background and how he made his money. To borrow a phrase from the late Ann Richards, former governor of Texas, about former President George W Bush: sometimes it seems he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

When failing to connect with the blue collar lovers of Nascar motor racing, he said he didn't follow the sport but some of his friends owned teams.

When things looked awkward with car workers in Detroit he said he understood them because his wife owns a couple of Cadillacs.

He also said he liked firing people. It was a joke, taken grotesquely out of context, but not one a politician more finely attuned to the times and his own vulnerabilities would have made.

Americans do not resent the rich. They are not automatically suspicious of wealthy politicians. But they do like them to wear cowboy boots, speak in homespun phrases and suggest they are just regular guys at heart.

The most memorable picture of Mr Romney (one under heavy copyright restrictions, so you will not see it as often as his opponents would like) is of a team from Bain Capital, the private equity firm he once led, with dollar notes stuffed in their suit jackets, over-flowing from their pockets.

That Mr Romney is not seen as a man of the people is one vulnerability Mr Obama's team will exploit. So is the way he made his millions. The nature of Bain Capital has been hotly debated for months, with opponents accusing it of asset-stripping, vulture capitalism and sacking workers to make a quick buck.

'Back to the 50s'?

At the end of the recent, important Nato conference Mr Obama seemed delighted to turn to domestic politics and made a full-blown attack on Mr Romney.

Of his campaign's attacks on Mr Romney's record at Bain Capital, he said: ''This is not a distraction. This is what this campaign is going to be about."

Quite a claim. It is going to be what the campaign is all about. What Mr Obama went on to spell out is that the campaign would be about giving a fair deal for all of the people, not about how best to make money for a few.

The Obama team also wants to promote the image of Mr Romney as very right wing.

Not simply conservative but old-fashioned. The out-of-touch old guy who would bring back the past. In an excellent, if long, article the New York Magazine quotes an unnamed Obama strategist: "He's the fifties, he is retro, he is backward, and we are forward—that's the basic construct."

"If you're a woman, you're Hispanic, you're young, or you've gotten left out, you look at Romney and say, 'This guy is gonna take us back to the way it always was, and guess what? I've never been part of that.'"

Perhaps Mr Romney is the sort of guy Hollywood's central casting would once have sent for, but who now doesn't look like a lot of the country.

Perhaps in a blockbuster these days they would not automatically cast a 65-year-old white man. That is, in part, the White House case against Mr Romney.

It may work. Yet every time I watch Mr Romney he seems a little sharper. Perhaps the friction of a harsh primary has honed him, sharpened the steel, made him more careful not to cut himself.

But there is work for his team. They have decided what they are against, but not quite what their man is for.

Not his policies, but his appeal. They have not come up with a coherent narrative that acknowledges or answers his weakness, that parries Mr Obama's feints.

When Texas Tuesday is out of the way, we may see some of their answers.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor


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  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Amr (101),

    “... I'm worried about the Islamophobia & the attacks against Islam and Quraan. I think many people in the west even fear talking about religion!”

    Those are reasonable concerns. Europeans have a very sad history of religious intolerance, so it can be difficult to engage some of them on this subject for that reason. Also, it can be difficult to discuss religion dispassionately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Amr (94),

    “... what some USA leaders are against is Islam, but USA wouldn't admit it”

    In the U.S. you can find some people against anything one might think of, but there is nothing to believe there is a U.S. policy ‘against Islam’.

  • Comment number 104.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    This is a scream of the Liberal controlled media. You pick up all the Obama Talking points and point out what you believe are the Romney weaknesses. Strange that the real polls show Obama behind in every category and more than that - No incumbent has won reelection in Modern times since Ike being less than 10 points ahead of his opponent at this stage in the campaign!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    (I don't think I could comment on the American elections because it's the people's choice, but I can comment about the American policies here)
    People are equal at birth and death and Lobbyists are no better. Perhaps they have more power or money 'now', but they'll eventually leave with nothing except their deeds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    I think most people (including myself) aren't aware (and their governments wouldn't let them know) what their governments do and how they run the country.
    Perhaps a good deal of honest talks between citizens of different countries is helpful.

    I'm worried about the Islamophobia & the attacks against Islam and Quraan. I think many people in the west even fear talking about religion!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    MsC: think in coming yrs it will be less & less important

    Perhaps in the future
    but as of right now
    Obama's actions as President
    have made things worse

    MsC: A whole lot of young white voters chose Mr Obama,too because he appeared more charismatic/idealistic than Hillary

    Was it the majority of white voters in primary?

    Any which way many white Dems have now flocked to Repub party

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Amr: what some USA leaders are against is Islam, but USA wouldn't admit it

    It has nothing to do w/ Islam

    It has everything to do w/ Lobbyists

    Its not just your country
    Its ours too
    Its every country

    Their goal is to take everything they can get+make money off of it

    Our goal is to survive in the most environmentally friendly self-sustaining and free way possible

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Forget Bain Capital. Wait until media starts checking into his term as Gov of Massachusetts . See what he really accomplished . Not so much. Cause he took 2 yrs off to run for Pres. the 1st time. How about , Bechtel could do no wrong. Weak employment stats even with the Bechtel project going on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    @87.LucyJ ,
    I'm not saying race isn't an issue in this or previous elections-I'm sure it still is to some degree.I'm just tired of hearing about it &think in coming yrs it will be less & less important as our nation's demographics continue to change.A whole lot of young white voters chose Mr Obama,too because he appeared more charismatic/idealistic than Hillary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    No matter how he shores up his message, he can still betray himself with a choice of phrasing. To just label his opponents 'anti-success' is a lame deflection when his attitude and disconnect to the American public says "My daddy's rich and I'm richer." So let's examine his record closely; who else owes their success to Bain, is Bain Capital pro-success for anyone but themselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Amr: most people here know to never trust any American administration

    Most Americans here know we cannot trust Lobbyists

    Lobbying is basically ruling our country

    That is why the Occupy Wall St
    came about

    The way many of you felt toward Mubarack is how we feel toward the Lobbyists

    And this includes foreign lobbyists as well
    not just American

    You think its us

    Its really them

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    The American military bases in the middle-east were to ensure there will never be peace. The American aggressive actions here will never see an end because there's no real enemy. Al-Quaeda was trained & supplied with weapons by USA in the first place. It's an American product, a ghost used to justify endless wars. No, actually, what some USA leaders are against is Islam, but USA wouldn't admit it

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Mojo: Mitt's totally opposed

    So is Obama

    Isn't it crazy to think almost all garbage would be biodegradable+enviromentally friendly if it was made of hemp but that we cannot do that b/c its a Class I drug which is illegal?

    So the solution to making garbage biodegradable by growing+using hemp is considered illegal in USA

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    (That's where your aid went. It's what's killing civilians in Syria, Yemen, &all over the middle-east then &now) The Dems deeds contradicted with their words. They simply continued using most of the GOP tools &means with one difference: they didn't say it aloud. The lesson has been learnt; most people here know to never trust any American administration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    OK Lucy, if you're going to cite Wikipedia as an authoritative source, I don't suppose there's any use explaining that 58 is not 60. So vote for Mitt, and see what happens to health care then. Who knows? Maybe Romneycare will save us all. BTW, you still won't have your hemp farm legalized. Mitt's totally opposed to such things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Please correct me if anything in the next comments is wrong. The GOP would probably continue their old policies in the middle-east. USA supported &supplied the regimes in the middle-east with weapons &trained the secret police to torture &murder their people and to spread the American influence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    83.Entropic man

    “Sincerity - if you can fake that, you've got it made.” ― George Burns.

    Well, that rules out Romney then....

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Not every US voters are happy having to choose between flip-flop Romney and flop-flip-flop Obama next November, but those are what 's on the ballot. If you like to have "cutting deficit in half" turn into " trillion plus deficit" all the way, then Obama is your man. How was his "responsibility to protect" turned out in Syria?. Sure he needs more FLEXIBLE to be like Sacha Baron Cohen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    MsC: I'm just tired about hearing "race" as an issue in the election

    The majority of black voters in Dem primary voted for Obama which is biggest reason why Obama won over Hilary

    They said she couldn't have won unless she got some of the black votes
    which most all went to Obama

    So race is large reason why Obama is President
    which makes it an election issue


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