I hope no one minds that I studiously avoided the State of the Union speech and the GOP response. I’m bipartisan this year. I could not stomach either. My skin hath crawled quite enough in 2012 already.
I did catch glimpses upon passing various TV sets. Obama looked like…well…Obama. Good optics on a man who is always a little annoyed with us small people he must lead. In the GOP response Mitch Daniels looked like hell. He may have sounded great. But he looked like hell. Perhaps a trip east to one of John Boehner’s Ohio tanning beds is in order.
My avoidance of the whole evening was a tactical conservation of energy. Obama is campaigning, not leading. What matters here is not what he said but how people respond to what he said. We’ll know this later in the week. I presume Fox questioned the speech, while MSNBC licked the monitors to get as close to their lover Obama as possible. CNN’s fetish is to insist it’s unbiased while being biased – so I presume they did just that. The resident Vanderbilt on staff at CNN is silky smooth when it comes to the biased lack of bias game. Anderson Cooper is now leaking into day time TeeVee, which is where he makes the most sense.
What interests me most is who wins, who loses, why they win or lose, and why people believe what they believe about the winner or loser. It’s been a hell of an interesting 3 years on those counts. I’ve no doubt Obama’s rebranding will work with the same people who bought his initial brand. They will believe he’s a man of the people, because his a man of those people. The branded people. What Obama does doesn’t matter to them. What he says barely matters. What matters is how they feel. These feeling people, plus a large swath of independents won it for Barry O. in 2008. The gooey creative class will be back in Obamaland in 2012. It’s that large swath on independents that keeps Axelrod up at night. They might not be coming back and the Axe man knows it.
Then again with Romney as the other choice, they might. His tax returns – smartly dumped on SOTU day – are far less interesting than one had hoped. He’s very rich. He lives off his investments. He gives a lot of money to charity. His taxes are surprisingly low. A smart candidate could make all that work for him, not against him. Being rich rarely hurts candidates…both Roosevelts, Kennedy, the Bushes…Most states in the union have a rich family in politics.
So far Mitt Romney is not a smart candidate. He’s not even a good candidate. He’s a barely passable candidate. He hasn’t given anyone a reason to love him or even like him. His Mormonism is working against him after all. His membership in the LDS church is harming him. We’re not afraid of it. But he is.
Romney’s campaign has provided no Romney backgrounding. His life seems to have begun at some point in the 1990s. There is no first act. The reason we become emotionally invested in any story is the first act. We care about Martin Brody confronting the shark at the end of Jaws because we found out in the first act that he was afraid of deep water. Forgive the Jaws stretch – but it does seem Romney will be eaten by Chicago sharks in act 3 (November) – and no one will care.
My guess is that Romney’s story hasn’t been told because he and his handlers fear Mormonism will turn voters away. They may be right. Nevertheless Romney needs a narrative to win. Narratives have 3 acts. Period. Lose the first act and you lose the audience. Romney is running on the hope that he can skip the first act and people will stay tuned in. They won’t. We do not do watch or participate in anything without an enticing first act. Football games, movies, marriages. Take your pick. If Romney doesn’t write his own first act, Obama will. Wait. He already is.
Unless Romney finds an intriguing first act his campaign is dependent on economic turmoil. It’s a strategy. It could work. An oil price spike, food inflation taking off, more bad employment numbers. All very possible. Probable even. But unless economic chaos sinks Obama, Romney needs to show up to win. All 3 acts of him.