As Mitt Romney began his 7-day foreign country tour by offending London due to their handling of the 2012 Summer Olympics and then offending Palestinians days later, concerned Republicans must be asking – privately if not openly – how important is likability in 2012? Let’s be honest, the guy at the top of the GOP ticket isn’t coming across as likable as a successful politician should be.
He reminds me of this teacher that one of my principals got rid of because – the “because” part is what’s easy to answer but very difficult to justify. Though no one would ever say it outright, the teacher was most likely not given tenure to keep teaching at the school because – plain and simple – hardly anybody liked her. Many would probably say that they couldn’t stand her. Yet, nobody worked harder than the fired teacher did. She got to school early and stayed later to do her lesson plans, set up her classroom, and did all those timely “teacher-ly” things that successful teachers do. She definitely knew her subject area and had more than enough knowledge to do what she was supposed to be doing in the classroom.
Problem was that the students, in general, didn’t like the woman at all. Students would come to my room and start criticizing her, and I’d have to quickly cut them off. I wouldn’t let them complain about another teacher – and I hoped no other teacher would give students in their class any time to complain about me either. But from what I could gather from what the students had already muttered, they never had a good reason for disliking her. She was just unlikable. There was something about her that seemed to turn many students – and even some teachers – off.
To this day, I can’t figure out why so many disliked her because I enjoyed my limited time with her at lunch or on institute days – great conversations and great laughs.
This seems to be similar to what Romney has developed in his 2012 campaign. He’s out there working hard, doing what a presidential campaigner is supposed to be doing and more. He knows his stuff, but people just don’t seem to like him. Since he’s got the experience, the policies nailed, and even the hair for the job, it’s got to be the conversational words that fall out of his mouth that bother people.
So, are the independent voters who could very well decide this election in about 100 days going to ultimately vote for the guy they’d rather hang out with – had they the option of hanging out with their president? Personally, if I were equally torn between the two candidates, it may very well come down to the one I like best as a person – via his image in the press.
As much as President Obama was criticized for the use of the teleprompter throughout his campaigning the first time around and throughout his presidency, maybe Romney should be using one anyway. Let’s face it – the teleprompter helped Obama get elected in 2008, didn’t it?
While both candidates are obviously messing up regularly without a script before them in recent days, there’s a difference. Obama messes up on policy statements of which he has to backpedal for weeks after – such as the “You Didn’t Build That” remark. While comments like that aren’t good, Romney has been doing worse. Instead of messing up on policy statements as much, he out-and-out offends people. You know the statements I mean. Like when he had the audacity to arrive in London last week, walk across the nation’s welcome mat, get the press there to publicize him on the world stage, and then criticize the hosting nation during one of their proudest moments – the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Who visits someone’s house and says that the housekeeper has got the whole place set up wrong – even if it is? Does anybody really have to tell Romney that one doesn’t say those kinds of things and still have that household as a friend at the end of the day? Apparently so.
The saving grace regarding Romney’s foreign trip is that he’s coming home before long. The other good thing is the report which claims the American polls don’t reflect a politician’s performance abroad for more than a few days – whether the abroad experience is positive or negative for the candidate. For example, the last time Obama went to Europe to meet with the Queen, his popularity in the polls back home went up, despite his glaring errors in social graces as when he interrupted the Brits’ national anthem with an ill-timed toast to the Queen. But, Obama’s improved ratings only lasted for a very short time after that trip. Therefore, regardless of what happened in London and beyond with Romney, the experiences should not have a lasting negative impact on his numbers.
But the question is: when he’s back home, will the offensive comments stop? Republicans can only hope so because this race is too important to be decided by “how much America likes one guy over another”. But such a factor could very well decide the outcome of this election – a very close election.
About Scott Paulson
Scott Paulson writes political commentary for Examiner.com and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.