Robert Traynham is an msnbc Contributor, former Hill staffer, and frequent NOWist
Here’s a prediction: Mitt Romney will become the 40th Republican Nominee for President. Although mathematically he cannot become the Nominee until early Spring at best, this primary race is his to lose. With tens of millions of dollars raised and a well-oiled machine in place, the Romney campaign appears to be a runaway train with the final destination being the White House.
Romney’s biggest obstacle is himself. In many ways he reminds me of Senator John Kerry who was the Democratic nominee in 2004. Romney, like Kerry, is philosophically moderate, wealthy, smart and well intentioned - and from Massachusetts. They’re intellectuals who do not see the messy world of politics and policy in black and white, rather in shades of gray. In the era of red state versus blue state and where sound bites trump a reasoned balanced thoughtful conversation, sadly, this type of politician has become a rare bread.
Romney’s recent comment about liking to fire people along with his earlier comment of “corporations are people too” will be used by the President and by national democrats repeatedly once Romney officially becomes the nominee. Yes, he said it and even Romney’s foes will admit that the latter comment was taken out of context. In truth, I think that’s the least of Romney’s worries. There is no doubt that Romney is a better candidate today than he was four years ago when he ran against John McCain for the GOP nod. There is also little doubt that throughout this bruising primary fight, Romney is becoming an even better candidate. I have heard many people say that Romney is only benefiting because there is a weak field. Wrong. Romney’s tenacity and hard work has made the rest of the field weak. We must remember that Romney essentially never stopped running for President and like any person who has been training for a long marathon, he has been practicing over and over again. Romney’s problem is that although no one will ever demonize him for his success - hell, that would be an un-American - he will be criticized for not being authentic.
Not being authentic? I know, I know and I really can’t put my finger on it, but Romney oftentimes just does not seem like one of us. He tries. Really hard, but it’s not natural. It’s not that he can’t empathize with people who are struggling to make ends meet, I just get the feeling that he simply cannot relate and his way of dealing with the situation is to speak in platitudes about how he is going to fix the economy.
For the independents out there who will decide this election come November, that may be enough, but something tells me that in order to win the White House, Romney has to do a better job of actually relating to average Americans. Understanding that they are being forced to do more with less, understanding that they are fed up with the 1% – not the 1% that are successful because they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. We love the stories of an Oprah Winfrey who was born into poverty and who became the 1% through her talents, or the Steve Jobs, or the Bill Clintons of the world. But we’re upset with the 1% that are out for pure greed and who’s only objective is to make money off of money and have no interest in helping those who are less fortunate.
And that will be the real test for Mitt Romney: to connect with average independent-minded Americans and to convince them to rally to his cause. Can he do it? Election Day will be the day when we all find out.