Mitt Romney remains vulnerable as a flip-flopper on a variety of issues, but he has another weakness that will become more evident over time--his failure to connect with Middle America, says Democratic pollster Geoff Garin.
Romney has failed to sell himself as the defender of the middle class, Garin says, and that failure will be particularly damaging because Middle America is increasingly resentful that government has protected the rich and big corporations while the rest of the country suffers. "Mitt Romney is a very weak vessel for addressing that concern," Garin told me.
Unlike another rich Massachusetts politician who sought the presidency—John F. Kennedy in 1960—Romney lacks a "common touch" that would allow him to connect with everyday people. Instead, Romney has demonstrated a tin ear toward everyday concerns, such as when he said corporations are people and when he told voters that he is currently unemployed like so many of them. "He doesn't get it," Garin says.
Garin also wonders if Romney is being well served by the debates. "Is Mitt Romney really being tested?" Garin asked. Except for a few tiffs with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and others, Romney has not been subjected to sustained criticism by his GOP rivals. Garin says it might be better for the former Massachusetts governor, who is expected to be the eventual GOP nominee, to deal with the worst criticisms now in order to prepare for any faceoffs with President Obama in 2012.
Not that the campaign will be easy for Obama. "It will be a close election," Garin predicts, "and it will take voters a long time to figure this out."
Garin is one of Washington's most respected political analysts. He was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential race and has counseled many Democrats running for Congress over the years.