By Teresa Welsh |
Mitt Romney's trip overseas helps build his stature among influential donors, but his trip also generated a sharp contrast between him and the president. President Obama looks more capable and Romney appears a neophyte.
Romney's gaffes will not have a long-term, negative effect on voters, but they do raise an urgent need for him to be careful in how he presents himself. He's taking a big hit by the president's attack ad featuring his off-key rendition of "America the Beautiful." And his statement "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me" hasn't helped either. If these continue to accumulate his chance of winning the election shrinks.
Undecided voters are sensitive to missteps, but this is one area Romney can control by improving his communications techniques. The history of presidential elections is replete with examples of gaffes damaging a candidate's potential. The most prominent is Sarah Palin's 2008 Katie Couric interview. But during the 1976 presidential election, one of the contributing factors to Gerald Ford's loss was his statement: "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe." Howard Dean's campaign crashed after his loud scream in the wake of the 2004 Iowa Caucus. And Hillary Clinton got booed after her most memorable strafe on President Obama when she said, "Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox."
Romney's donors responded positively to his journey. His Jerusalem speech drew a standing ovation from the audience, which included Sheldon Adelson, who has promised to donate more than $100 million to help Romney defeat the president. But don't expect the same reaction from the general Jewish American voting population; they consistently vote blue. Not to mention, with their populations largely concentrated in New York, California, and Illinois, even if they overwhelming voted for Romney, they're not going to help award him those electoral votes because these states go persistently blue. However, if Romney can mobilize Florida's Jewish voters, he could win there.
Net, net, Romney's trip will help him pull green into his already large war chest, but don't expect it to push masses of undecided voters over the red side of the fence.
About Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Brandon Rottinghaus Associate Professor at the University of Houston