The GOP nomination | Todd Domke

Can Romney win?

No: Voters want the real deal, not pandering and positioning

(Jonathan Wiggs/ Globe Staff)
By Todd Domke
June 9, 2011

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A NEW national poll shows Mitt Romney tied with President Obama.

That’s good news for Romney; he is now unarguably the GOP frontrunner. It’s also bad news for Romney; he will be the focus of much more criticism.

Prediction: Like many frontrunners before, Romney will end up losing his party’s nomination. The reasons he will lose are not to be found in new polls, but in old horror movie titles:

“The Silence of the Lambs’’ In the past, GOP voters could seem sheep-like in supporting whoever was next in line for the presidential nomination: Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole. But in 2012, like 2010, millions of new voters will participate in GOP primaries — Tea Partiers, libertarians, independents — and they won’t be silent. They’ll want a principled leader, not an establishment politician known for flip-floppery.

“The Exorcist’’ Romney cannot exorcise RomneyCare from his record. Conservatives won’t forget he created the state health insurance program that became the model for ObamaCare. He now argues that government mandates are great for Massachusetts, but horrible for the nation. His spin reminds one of Linda Blair’s head in “The Exorcist.’’ Conservative leaders believe that ObamaCare should be a major issue in challenging the president and realize the issue would dissipate if Romney were the nominee.

“Alien’’ Romney is often called an “empty suit.’’ His handlers try to counter that image by making him go tie-less. Still, when people view him, they mentally add a necktie. Romney is not an android, but seems uncomfortable in his own skin. In debates he’s so programmed it seems like he’s reading a teleprompter. He looks presidential, but he isn’t persuasive.

“The Shining’’ Romney shines like a movie star, but Republicans increasingly realize he was a dull disappointment as governor. Unlike governors Tim Pawlenty, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, and others, Romney was not a dedicated reformer. He basically quit mid-term, but stayed in office, changed his “convictions’’ and started running for president.

“Wrong Turn 2: Dead End’’ Romney aides boast that he’s the fundraising leader, but being a big-money pol didn’t work for him last time. And it’ll backfire in 2012 because many taxpayers are outraged that special-interest donors and lobbyists have too much influence.

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’’ Texas Governor Rick Perry might enter the race. Candidates don’t have to be Southerners to win Southern primaries, but if you’re a mushy moderate from Massachusetts, expect to be massacred. Romney did poorly in Southern primaries in 2008 and hasn’t gotten any stronger.

The People Under The Stairs’’ Romney can’t relate to “the little people.” He’s great in corporate boardrooms, but has trouble connecting with blue-collar workers, unemployed, young, minority, rural — basically, anyone who doesn’t get excited by a PowerPoint presentation.

“The Omen’’ 2012 is ominous for Romney because he’s all about polling, positioning, and pandering, when voters want authenticity.

“Final Destination’’ Next summer, his 10-year campaign will end.

Todd Domke is a Boston-area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author.