Whether or not a politician, especially a presidential candidate, can develop and sell an effective narrative for their campaign is crucial to connecting with voters. Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times that often a candidate’s personal story is structured as a “crisis narrative” – born out of a traumatic experience or extreme adversity. Stolberg uses the example of President Obama searching for his identify as a mixed-race young man coming from a single parent home, President George W. Bush overcoming alcoholism, and President Clinton battling his alcoholic stepfather. Governor Mitt Romney, Stolberg argues, has not presented a crisis narrative, even though he has two experiences he could draw from – his response to a deadly car accident while he was a Mormon missionary, and his wife’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.
The article quotes a friend of Governor Romney’s, Dean of Utah State Business School Dr. Douglas Anderson, who discussed how traumas like that car accident shaped how he approaches problems: “He developed a very early set of core beliefs and values that had to do with being cool under pressure, that had to do with looking for opportunities where others saw threats, that had to do with being analytical and somewhat detached in order to look at reality the way it is, rather than how it is being perceived by people who are driven by the hysteria of the moment. And out of that came a pattern of living that was reinforced by events like that critical accident in France.”
A story like that could both resonate with voters and display skills that help explain his typically wooden personality. In short, it could take something that has been a struggle for him (connecting with voters as a real person) and turn it into an asset (the signs of a mechanical, but effective, problem solver). Take a look at what Alex and our panel thought of the Romney “crisis narrative:”