The fabulous blogger Walter Russell Mead observes that studies show that the more likable candidate almost always win. That’s why Bush the younger, for example, beat Gore. So far the president is more much liked than Romney. One reason for that is that we don’t know Mitt very well as a person, because he’s not displaying his Mormon identity for us to see. Being Mormon has the disadvantage of voters knowing that they can’t even imagine having a beer with you–or even a cup of coffee. Still, although most voters don’t know or understand or like what Mormons believe, who couldn’t like what they do? It reassuring to know that Mitt’s faith informs all of his life, and that he’s lived in a highly responsible, deeply familial, “I’m-in-it-for-eternity” way. If voters come to like Mitt along those lines, then they won’t, of course, be buying it when the MSM says there that cold and classless ruthless downsizer goes again. Here’s Mead’s good advice:
Candidates need to connect with voters in ways that are more visceral than intellectual. (Liberals still recoil when they remember how exit polls from the 2000 election showed that voters would overwhelmingly prefer to have a beer with George W. Bush instead of Al Gore.) As Via Meadia pointed out recently, surveys from Gallup show Barack Obama holds a near two-to-one advantage over Mitt Romney when voters are asked to name which candidate is more likable. According to Gallup, this could spell trouble for Romney:
Voters usually elect the candidate they like more. In each of the last five presidential elections, the candidate whose basic favorable rating was higher won the election each time.
If voters like Mitt Romney, Democratic attacks on his record at Bain won’t make much headway. If voters don’t like or don’t trust him, any mud thrown in his general direction is likely to stick. The central dilemma for the Romney campaign: Romney’s faith is unpopular and that isn’t likely to change in the course of an election cycle. But that faith makes him behave in ways that are popular for the most part: helping neighbors, contributing to his community, standing by his word, making sacrifices for his beliefs. So central is this faith to Romney’s life and character that if you keep faith in the background it’s hard to project a coherent and likable portrait.
Romney can’t talk about his faith; Romney must talk about his faith. If his strategists and advisers can figure this one out, they will deserve the huge fees that they charge.