March 21, 2012

Election 2012: Does Bishop Romney Have a Positive Message, or only a Negative Ad Campaign?

After the American Century

After a decisive victory in Illinois, Romney appears close to winning the Republican nomination. Notably, Gingrich's candidacy faded to fourth place, just behind Ron Paul. This leaves Santorum as his only real challenger, and Romney beat him by more than 10 percentage points. 

One can spin this somewhat differently, and point out that Romney still did not manage to get half the votes in Illinois. This means that despite outspending all of his rivals -- by a wide margin -- the Republicans as a group gave more votes to others than they did to him. There clearly remains a high level of dissatisfaction with him as a candidate.

But the mathematics of delegate counts suggests that after winning Puerto Rico and Illinois, he will be hard to stop. In terms of pledged delegates, Bishop Romney has more votes than his three rivals combined. 

(In case anyone wonders why I refer to him as Bishop, it is because Romney is a Bishop in the Mormon Church, and gives 10% of his income each year to it. This tithe, as well as his missionary work in France for the Mormon Church, shows that he is not a casual member of that church. He has also participated in posthumous baptism, a Mormon ritual  in which people who were never Mormons during their lives are "converted" post-facto. Among these are many of the founding fathers of the US and Anne Frank, who as a Jewish person was killed by the Nazis.)

The problem, increasingly for Bishop Romney will be one of turning his almost entirely negative campaign into a more positive one telling Americans how he can make the country a better place. To date, he has used all his energy to attack others, including the President. His advertising money has been overwhelmingly used to send out negative messages. By one count he has had seven negative advertisements for every positve one. It seems doubtful that this strategy alone will put him in the White House. 

So as Romney moves to later primaries, it will be interesting to see if he has anything equivalent to Ronald Reagan's famous "Morning in America" campaign. What is he for? This is also a challenge for the Republican Party as a whole, which for four years has been a negative force, constantly on the attack, but almost never offering anything new or innovative as a solution to the nation's challenges.

In short, the question now becomes whether Bishop Romney's candidacy can renew the Republican Party, or whether it will remain mired in squabbles between its various factions. Can it articulate a common vision and look forward? Can the Republicans think positively? And will Bishop Romney's religion play a role in whatever does happen?