Why Mitt Lost

Mitt RomneySeems like everyone wants to Monday morning quarterback about why Mitt Romney didn’t win the Presidency. It seemed like a slam-dunk he would, especially given the situation with the economy. No President has ever been reelected with an economy this bad. It’s completely baffling. And everyone thinks they have it right, but they refuse to really recognize how to succeed in America today.

Right out of the box, John Boehner started being conciliatory on a tax plan saying maybe Republicans should reexamine their core economic beliefs, and Sean Hannity began talking about immigration reform because maybe that would appease the Latino community. Condoleezza Rice argued that Republicans didn’t cater enough to either Latinos or women with hard line and then, at times, idiotic statements about reproduction and rape (ala Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock) that Democrats exploited and extended to the entire party. The reason Mitt lost though? Hogwash!

Look Conservatives have won without ever kowtowing to what the people kept saying they wanted. Reagan was completely unpopular with the press and with what people said was important to them in poll after poll and, yet, he won two terms, always ranking “inexplicably” high in popularity. Similarly, Wisconsin, a state that voted for Obama, recently refused to recall their Republican governor (Scott Walker) who had gone up against collective bargaining.

Others complain that Romney didn’t attack Obama enough; that he wasn’t hard hitting enough or didn’t show the American people he was tough enough by going negative. Baloney!

Romney wasn’t too nice at all. He was extremely aggressive against Gingrich, where he needed to be, but then he was more Presidential than the President. For a very long time, we the people have been clamoring and begging for the kind of politician Mitt Romney was—above the fray; refusing to go negative and willing to turn the other cheek, and when we got it, even the Republicans were and are now still whining about it.

Still more blame the media or Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie or even still George Bush (insert whichever one you want to think started this mess) for the loss. All complete regurgitated garbage!

The fact is Mitt Romney lost for one simple reason. He refused to connect with the American people where it counted, and thereby tacitly allowed the Democrats to paint him as the untouchable and out of touch rich guy, too aloof to care about the needs and wants of the majority of America.

Stephen R. Covey developed his 7 Habits of Highly Successful People after researching the first 200 years of American leadership. Pouring through hundreds of thousands of treatises and trainings, he pointed out that the first 150 years of our country’s leadership teaching concentrated on issues of character. The best leaders were those who had integrity, were trustworthy, demonstrated consideration for others, were frugal, and even punctual. In short, they demonstrated ethics and qualities we often ascribe to the ideal worker, but just after World War I, leadership began to morph into a Rally the Troops ideal based on how well leaders could motivate or inspire their workforce. The literature reflects leaders who focused on self-esteem and stylistic features of management centered in personality and style.

Mitt Romney is the epitome of character-based leadership. He embodies character, and he’s been extremely successful at it in the private sector because in his type of business, that’s what matters. We are unforgiving of CEOs, who live in largess at the expense of their workers or stockholders, but we let our President get away with 140 rounds of golf and more than 96 vacation days that we pay for. Why is that? Simple; we’ve known for a long time that the public arena is all about the Cult of Personality. In both entertainment and politics, people are head over heels enmeshed in the personality of the players. Today we have more fans more than free thinkers. Our political leaders are celebrities, whether we like it or not, and we grant them the same forgiveness we do our movie icons and rock stars.

Why is Bill Clinton popular despite cheating on his wife? Because he’s a celebrity, and that’s what celebrities seem to do. We may complain about their behavior and call it scandal, but we grant them a kind of charismatic authority, allowing them a different set of standards that we would demand for ourselves or for those closer to our lives.

Reagan won on the basis of his personality, and he then used that political capital to try to educate America about Conservative principles. They listened because they liked him. Clinton won election for the same reasons. And Obama is the ultimate personification of the Cult of Personality, all words and no substance. People know he doesn’t mean what he says, but there’s a willing suspension of disbelief because people like him or want to like him. His words speak louder than his actions because he shouts them from the rooftops, and people fall right in line behind everyone else in the “in crowd”.

This has only intensified in the social media marketplace we live in today. We want to connect, and the best entertainers and politicians know that people want to feel connected to them. In a society that has shifted to personality-based leadership, the popular is king. This is one reason Hollywood and Washington DC want to connect together. They both reign through popularity and branding.

All this eluded Mitt Romney, but he could have made up for it. All he had to do was show people his personality—at least what every single person who has ever had dealings with him comes off saying—that Mitt Romney is the nicest guy on the planet. He should have built that up as an unuttered but key part of his brand—nice but tough, or tough but fair or something more reachable. And where do we as Americans go for our healthy dose of personality: television talk shows.

Studies have shown for more than a decade that more people get their news from late night talk shows than from the mainstream media, and with the mainstream media’s approval rate sitting at 8%, the talk shows (day and night time) would have provided a perfect counterpoint to all the negative messaging the Democrats created about Romney. But Romney wouldn’t go on Letterman, Leno, Kimmel, Fallon or The View because he said it wasn’t Presidential. He should have gone on each of them and let America see the real Mitt, rather than allowing the Democrats to define him. He should have been cooking his favorite recipes on The Chew, sitting in the chair beside Jon Stewart and swapping stories with Jimmy Fallon. He could have especially capitalized with Letterman after the Talk Show Host realized Obama lied to America right on his show.

What Romney missed—what he really really missed is that the people want their President to be one of them—the idea that anyone in this country can still be President of the United States is one of the most fundamental beliefs of America. And for that belief, in this day and age, people crave access. Barack Obama provided them with that access. Romney refused.

Just two years ago, Republicans scored victory after victory. A few months ago, Americans turned out in droves to support Chic-Fil-A when they thought the company was getting a bad rap for simply going on record in support of traditional families (they never said what they were against, but the media extrapolated and tried to blame a bigotry on them they never iterated). The country hasn’t flipped that fast. Are values shifting in some ways? Yes. But the population is divided on almost every issue; it has almost always been and most often will be. What it takes to reach a tipping point is the type of leader whom people can relate to, and they can’t relate if they can’t connect. While Mitt ran a great social media campaign for fundraising, he completely punted on allowing voters to see him on television. He could have come to them, right into their living and bedrooms, on late night and day time talk shows, where people feel like they’re getting to know all these celebrities, and where both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama solidified their followings. With a few appearances, Romney would have shown the American people that he was someone they could relate to; that not only did he have the right vision for America, but he was someone they could see carrying that out—someone a lot like them if they were in his shoes. This would have completely broken down the image of him being the rich guy in the mansion on the hill, completely disconnected from the “99%”.

Barack Obama is rich; he’s part of the 1%. And the guy played over 140 rounds of golf last year, and took 96 vacation days—something no American can afford to do, and far more than Mitt Romney ever has. But he gets a pass because people see him as accessible. Mitt never allowed America to get to “know” him. When they saw him in the debates, walls were broken down. But more people watch late night, than they do the debates. They needed to see more than competence—they needed a relatable personality to vote for.

Until Republicans realize this, they’re going to keep making the same mistakes—appearing on the news shows, believing that they can simply educate their way into the hearts of America. This country needs leaders with character, but they can only relate to ones with a personality. The problem is there’s no one on the national scene that understands how to get this across. Perhaps Marco Rubio can do it; perhaps Bobby Jindal; perhaps even Jason Chaffetz, but right now, they’re all going the traditional routes of appealing to the heads of Americans and forgetting about their hearts. America is always best when she feels. Ignoring this will forever doom the Republican Party to continued bewilderment. “It’s not logical,” they’ll keep muttering. And they’ll be right.

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