Mitt Romney Follows Bill Clinton's Gameplan and Gets on the Bus
Around the State
In coming days, Mitt Romney will be taking a page from the gameplan of a winning presidential candidate when he visits crucial battleground states on a bus tour. The gameplan first was carried out by Democratic candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.
Romney announced on Monday that he will be hitting six battleground states -- New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan -- from Friday through next Tuesday.
After beating the likes of Jerry Brown and Paul Tsongas for the Democratic nomination, Clinton relied on bus tours to reach out to blue-collar voters and contrast his roots with those of George H.W. Bush. Clinton also used the tours to argue that Bush was out of touch with average Americans during a recession -- and the Republican incumbent did not help his cause during his appearances on the campaign trail in that election cycle.
It was a natural tactic for Clinton. The Democrat candidate hammered Bush for being out of touch in the White House. With Bush making numerous gaffes on the campaign trail -- including being stunned that grocery stores now relied on scanners at the checkouts -- Clinton could play the populist card by going to McDonalds and touring the country in buses instead of Air Force One. It was a sharp contrast; the young governor from a small town in Arkansas whose father died before he was born taking on the prep school patrician son of a U.S. senator.
It does not seem as much of a natural fit for Romney. Despite all the rhetoric coming from his camp that he is a self-made businessman, Romney’s father served as governor of Michigan and in the Nixon Cabinet and headed up American Motors Corp. In contrast to some of his rivals in recent Republican primaries, like Mike Huckabee and RIck Santorum, it’s fair to say that Romney is more patrician than plebian.
Instead of using the bus tour to focus on Obama’s background, Romney hopes to use the bus trip to argue that the president is out of touch with the American people.
“For three and a half years, President Obama has paid little attention to the everyday concerns of the American people,” Romney said on Monday. “President Obama has offered no hope for the future, and he has left American families to bear the burden of his failed policies. Too many American families have experienced a lost job, faced foreclosure, or been forced to spend their kids' college savings just to make ends meet. These are not statistics – these are our fellow Americans. In America’s small towns, you don't find despair -- you find boundless optimism. We know we can make America better, and that is why I am running for president.”
If it seems odd that Romney is following in the footsteps of a Democrat, it’s not the first time a candidate has reached across party lines to wrap himself in the legacy of a former president. Republican Herbert Hoover tried to claim the mantle of Democrat Woodrow Wilson whom he worked for during World War One. FDR claimed the legacy of his distant relative Theodore Roosevelt. And Bush, along with Clinton and Ross Perot, claimed to be the successor to Harry Truman back in 1992.
Despite his impeachment, Clinton remains very popular. A poll from Rasmussen Reports unveiled on Monday shows that more Americans have more confidence in Clinton’s abilities to manage the economy than they do in Romney or Obama. So, it makes sense for Romney to try to wrap himself, albeit subtly, in Bill Clinton’s mantle.
But -- as George Bush proved back in 1992 -- patricians can often stumble on the campaign trail. When he took on Richard Nixon for the Republican nomination back in 1968, George Romney stumbled badly as he insisted that the military “brainwashed” politicians into backing the war in Vietnam and even failed to knock pins down when bowling in New Hampshire.
"Watching George Romney run for the presidency was like watching a duck try to make love to a football,” concluded Jim Rhodes, the longtime governor of Ohio.
As he prepares for his bus trip, Mitt Romney -- who watched his father go down in flames in 1968 and his mother lose a U.S. Senate race two years later -- will try his best to avoid the same problems.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.