Mitt Romney's presidential exploratory committee announcement yesterday stunned the blogosphere with its blandness. ("Stunned" might be the wrong word.) Most of the commentary focused on Romney's very straightforward announcement video--or according to Wonkette, "a hilarious Will Ferrell spoof of a Mitt Romney announcement." Others fixated on Romney's logo which resembled either Aquafresh toothpaste or Carnival Cruise Lines. Unlike GOP opponent and action movie star Tim Pawlenty, the former Massachusetts governor has never been one to dazzle voters with uniqueness.
Today the pundits are weighing in more earnestly about Romney's viability as a candidate, and their outlook is pretty dour.
"Mitt Romney is damned by timing and circumstance." The Daily Beast's Mark McKinnon did not mince his words in his short reaction to Romney's candidacy. As the wealthy outside-the-beltway guy with a knack for fundraising, Romney should have everything he needs to snag the nomination. But with healthcare serving as the number one issue for Republicans and Romney mired by that fact that he can't explain the difference between "Romneycare" and "Obamacare," this just won't be the year. It also doesn't help that Romney is so darn conventional at a time when the GOP lusts after unconventional candidates.
Romney is "defined largely by his shortcomings." Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns at Politico drew up a list of the former Massachusetts governor's top five biggest challenges in 2012, and it's safe to say that Mitt is his own worst enemy. Martin and Burns go so far as to call Romney a "walking PowerPoint presentation--full of crisply-delivered bullet-points but lacking a human touch." Despite Romney's attempts to shed the rich boy, Brooks Brothers veneer as evidenced in his casual attire announcement video, voters will remember Romney's background in failing healthcare reform and slashing jobs as an executive above all. And while Romney might be able to play up his service in Vietnam like John Kerry did in 2004, he'll also face criticism for flip-flopping on the issues like John Kerry did in 2004.
Did he really use the same slogan as Kerry? Yes, observes Politico's Ben Smith: "If ['Believe in America'] sounds familiar, that's because it was the title of John Kerry's cross-country tour in August of 2004."
Maybe, being low key is a good thing. For a counterpoint, The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins thinks that Romney's Twitter and YouTube approach might be an interesting reaction to superfun-guy Pawlenty:
Romney's rollout seems to acknowledge that the competitor that he has to draw the biggest distinction with is Tim Pawlenty -- the other center-right optimist-technocrat in the race. He succeeded on a couple of fronts.
First of all, he got the rollout's social media piece just right. As Jon Ward reports, the news broke over Twitter and filtered out. Pawlenty strove for the same sort of "down with the youngs" announcement himself, but it floundered thanks to some old-school leaks. And while Pawlenty's web video strategy has been suffused with Michael Bay-style quick-cut bombast, Romney's announcement video is calm and composed -- almost mumblecore.
Romney is still a frontrunner, but that might not be a good thing. According to The New York Times' Michael Shear, Romney's done well at toning down the aggressive campaigning that may have cost him the nomination in 2008, but he's also become the candidate to beat. Despite all that talk about people not liking him, Romney is still leading the polls:
For the moment, Mr. Romney remains, in the eyes of some political observers, a fragile front-runner who has not yet fully emerged from the years after losing the Republican nomination to Mr. McCain.
Somehow, he will have to find a way to stay ahead of his media-seeking Republican rivals, including Mr. Pawlenty and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, while keeping his attention on Mr. Obama and the Democrats, who are clearly intent on undercutting his fledgling campaign.
And now that he’s officially entered the process, he’s going to have to do it with just about everyone looking to stop him.