Even though Mitt Romney appears to be on the verge of winning the Florida Republican primary tomorrow, Democratic strategists, including some who are close to President Obama's campaign, say Romney's presidential bid has been irreparably damaged. The reason, they say, is his failure to dispel concerns among Americans, especially independents and swing voters, that he is an aristocratic, out-of-touch millionaire who is more interested in turning profits for corporate America than creating jobs for everyday people.
The Democrats say Romney's surging campaign among Republicans in Florida will do little to make him more generally appealing because he has dealt with these perceptions so poorly. Rob Shapiro, a senior economic adviser to President Bill Clinton who specializes in the intersection of politics and economic issues, told me, "He doesn't have the demeanor or the charm to get past all this. Americans don't begrudge him his wealth but he embodies the way the very wealthy use their influence in the political system to avoid paying their fair share."
Romney has come under attack from Democrats for paying a federal tax rate of only about 15 percent, for putting money in foreign bank accounts often used as tax havens, and for using predatory practices while he directed Bain Capital, a private-equity firm. This may not seriously damage Romney among conservatives, but the charges will hurt him with moderates and liberals in the fall campaign if he is the nominee, Democratic strategists say.
A recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that Romney's unfavorability rating among independents has soared. Today, he is rated somewhat or very negatively by 42 percent of independents, up from 22 percent in November.
Another Democratic adviser who is close to the White House says the Obama team is somewhat surprised but pleased that Romney has been a weaker candidate than they expected.