Even if Mitt Romney continues to be painted as the “whitest,” gaffe-prone, most “out-of-touch” presidential candidate in decades by the media, campaign ads, and even his own actions, does it really matter if he can prove to provide a jobs-filled economy better than President Obama starting next January?
It does seem like it keeps coming: the slams against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on everything from stinging campaign ads painting him as the rich fat-cat type that puts his money over America’s prosperity to criticism from London over his (fairly benign and previously noted) comments over previous issues concerning Olympic security as the Summer Games began overseas.
Even when the controversy is not directly coming from Mr. Romney, there are times when it swirls around and from his camp. Such was the case recently when multiple Republican supporters publicly pushed the former Massachusetts governor to release more tax returns to satisfy calls for additional financial disclosure. Flak also came Romney’s way when former New Hampshire governor John Sununu questioned if President Obama “…knew how to be an American…”
Some of it is self-damaging. Some of it is merely part of the presidential process in the age of constant media coverage and surrogate speaking teams.
And yet, truthfully, none of it really matters – not with the GDP numbers that came out this week, the on-going jobs situation in the nation (including the 14.4% unemployment rate in the Black community), and the impending unemployment numbers coming out for July on Friday.
In turn, that begs the question that more Americans – and perhaps, a bit more African-Americans – are going to have ask themselves as we head forward into the conventions and the sprint that is a presidential fall.
How much does the elephant in the room really matter to voters – the one that keeps pointing out that, in contrast to the first Black president running for re-election on the Democrats’ ticket, the GOP has one of the most atypical, non-diverse, and “boring White guys” running for president this fall that it could have chosen on its slate.
That contrast makes the media, image, and style match-ups poor ones for the GOP as they go against the incumbent. The GOP and Romney camps do not want more pop culture comparisons between the smooth-crooning, Chicago-based incumbent and the rigid, hard-to-connect-to Mormon. Yet, as long as President Obama has to answer for on-going bad economic numbers, fears of another recession on the horizon, and position “evolutions” over the past few months that came through a need to strengthen a weary political base, there are plenty of opportunities for the Romney camp to pin Mr. Obama’s record to his campaign and watch the American people squirm in the process.
As a result, there is room for enough Americans to ignore the white elephant of pop culture contrasts between Romney and Obama in 2012 to elect Mitt Romney as the 45th President of the United States in November.
Whether we choose to admit it or not, the choice is becoming clearer each day: if Americans are willing to apply their 2008 criteria to the 2012 election, the guy with more Washington experience during a historic economic crisis (without any real hope for turnaround in sight) loses the election to the new guy in town, despite the newbie’s questions within his record. Although culture did matter in 2008 – as everyone from first-time voters to Black Republicans such as Armstrong Williams wanted to be on “the right side of history” – the economy mattered more. Because of that, questions about Mr. Obama’s character due to some affiliations (e.g., Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, among others) and his experience due to his meteoric candidacy (as noted by Obama’s current Vice President and Secretary of State) were overlooked in the hope that a new perspective would make a difference in reversing horrible economic conditions. Culture played a role, but not more of a role than economic frustration did. The same is true today. This time, it may play to Mr. Obama’s detriment.
Just the same, Americans may admire President Obama’s personal story as they did Senator McCain’s story of surviving as a POW and serving as a decades-long player on Capitol Hill. Yet, as long as the economy reacts horribly to the first 2 years of Democrats’ rule in Washington and the past 2 years of partisan gridlock, admiration may not be enough to make President Obama a two-term president. Culture matters. Pop politics is real. Yet still, personal economics always matters more. That reality will play out, even if polling numbers today do not bear this out quite yet.
The “white elephant” in the room 4 years ago – a set of concerns that also included the issue of having the first Black presidential candidate on the ticket and its meaning for America – was not enough to prompt voters to choose Senator McCain. If Governor Romney can articulate his message for reversing the economic woes of the nation and expand prosperity throughout the diversity of America, it will not matter as much to voters that they cannot relate to Romney’s personality, religion, or background. It only matters if they can believe in his plans for America’s economic future. Regardless of what we say publicly, the “white elephant” in the room for more Americans today – and notably for minorities voting in 2012 as we approach the fall – is whether the guy we cannot relate to personally can deliver us out of the red faster than the pop culture phenom that has struggled in delivering a stronger economy over the past 4 years.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic 365 featured on outlets including CNN Newsroom, CNN’s “Early Start”, Current TV “The Young Turks”, and XM Radio. His new book, “Spoken Thoughts of an Amalgamated Advocate in Today’s America” is now available electronically on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com . Catch Lenny’s “The McAllister Minute” on The American Urban Radio Network this week and other latest via the new LennyMcAllister.com website.