I watched the GOP debate in New Hampshire last night and thought something new happened: Mitt Romney showed how talented he is as a salesman. Now, when I say “salesman” I don’t mean it in the pop-culture sense like “huckster” or “con-man”. No, I mean it as a huge mega-compliment.
I have the utmost regard for quality salespeople; the people of integrity who bring new products, services, and ideas to a reflexively skeptical audience. (Think Steve Jobs.) And boy are we skeptical when it comes to politicians!
The skills necessary to excel in sales are often misunderstood outside business circles. A good salesman does not trick you into buying something you don’t want. A good salesman does not convince you to act against your interests. No, a good salesman has the skills to understand what is important to you and then explain his product intelligently in those terms. Moreover, a good salesman must have a solid product, be knowledgeable, trustworthy, and likeable.
Selling is just a piece of making a good President, but selling is really important. What if a President had a truly decent product (agenda) but lacked the skills to implement it? Would that person make a good President? What if a President had a really bad product and managed to cynically convince us to buy it against our interests? Would that person make a good President?
Last night Mitt Romney passed the sales test for me in a way he hadn't before, but that doesn’t make him perfect. (No one’s perfect, except of course my wife!)
My problems with Mitt Romney are a bit different than the usual. You see, I’m actually OK with Romneycare. In fact, I’m OK with the individual mandate at the state level. The reason for this, as Mitt has explained, is that we’ve always had a mandate in health care, except it was one-sided. That mandate was always on the providers and it forced them to treat anyone who walked into an emergency room. That forced a reciprocal mandate on responsible, insured folks to cover the costs of those who refuse to pay. (Remember, those who are indigent are covered by Medicaid!)
The debate over Obamacare has been hijacked by the mandate controversy because the issue of constitutionality is seen by opponents as a way to kill it in the courts. That may or may not work, but I think it’s been a distraction. The real evil of Obamacare is that it nationalizes the remaining 50% of the health care market and that will kill innovation, access, quality, and life. I think Mitt Romney gets this and the Massachusetts plan was not a similar takeover.
I’m also OK with being pro-choice and pro-life, even though my views may differ from Romney’s at any given time. I’m OK with choice early in a pregnancy, but I define late-term abortion as taking a life. ‘Nuff said.
No, my problem with Mitt Romney is that he does not seem to understand Obama’s role in the financial meltdown. I’ve heard him say things like: “Obama did not cause this mess. He’s a nice enough guy. But he made it worse!” I find this a fundamental misreading of the biggest issue of the day. As much as any one man, Barack Obama did cause the meltdown in 2008 and has lied about it and blamed others ever since. He was known as the “Senator from Fannie Mae” for Pete’s sake! He worked with ACORN to force banks to make bad loans in the ‘90s. He voted for TARP. His fingerprints are all over this from the get-go. And yes, he did make it worse.
I realize the polls don’t agree with this assessment and Acade-Media-Wood have done a great job of covering Obama’s tracks, but I expect the Republican nominee to at least understand this. And once they understand it, I’d hope they can sell it in a general election. Based on last night, Mitt Romney is half way there.
(I realize there were others at that debate and I thought Michelle Bachman was the other winner, but this post is limited in scope.)