Five things Romney should do

What must Mitt Romney do to ensure victory?

First, Romney must remember that this election, like all elections, is mostly about the incumbent, in this instance Barack Obama. The governor shouldn’t be aiming to win as much as allowing the president to lose. Polling by everyone indicates that voters don’t believe that Obama has performed well enough to “deserve” reelection, so Romney must keep that thought the central narrative of his campaign. This means that the challenger must resist the natural instinct to “prove” that he will do this or that better than Obama has done. Romney must also stifle any urges to present grand plans or articulate sweeping visions. These might divert voters’ thoughts from the judgment they are prepared to make on Obama, that we can do better. 

Second, Romney should run everywhere. This notion that everything hinges on a handful of swing states is terribly wrong. Yes, I know the math, and I know that winning most of the swing contests is essential, but the more important question is how to win those swing states. I think the answer is to create a sense of inevitability that Obama will lose. If every public opinion poll starts to show the president getting less than 50 percent of the vote, his supporters might lose heart. Swing voters, ever impressionable, will be swayed by the zeitgeist, too. The key, though, is the nationwide polls from organizations like Gallup and the pending result they suggest. Run up the score everywhere to plump the totals. Doing so will influence those swing voters in swing states and cause the Obama faithful to lose heart.

Third, Romney needs to work on likability. Obama’s only chance to win reelection hinges on his ability to convince voters that the problems he has failed to solve are, in fact, unsolvable by mortal man. The Fed can’t fix the economy. Stimuli can’t create jobs. Business leaders don’t have a clue. Forces outside our borders — from Europe to China — are screwing things up. If Obama can get Americans to give up hope that there is reason to be hopeful, then he can set up a likability contest, where we pick the guy we would rather have a beer with than the one who might fix things. Obama could be closer to succeeding in forcing this scenario than some GOP strategists care to admit. He’s close enough that we do have to worry about Romney’s congeniality.

Fourth, Romney must embrace his business biography. Given that Obama is presently trying to turn Romney’s Bain background into his biggest liability, the Republican might try and refocus his résumé on being governor, running the Olympics or even being a Mormon. But leaving out his business successes would be a huge miscalculation. Obama is going to enter all of Romney’s business debits into the spreadsheet. Unless Romney enters the credits, too, he’s going to be out of balance and upside down. Americans don’t want to elect a politician. They want a fresh new perspective. Voters want business sense, not political excuses. Voters realize that business decisionmaking sometimes creates messy situations. But sell the best outcomes that result from those decisions. 

Fifth, Romney needs to listen to as few advisers as possible. Every idiot with an opinion — present company included — will try and bend the candidate’s ear. Some of the advice he gets might be sound and useful, but if it diverts him down too many rabbit trails, he loses focus. The best campaigns have a small, tight-knit group of advisers. The best teams are an amalgam of seasoned consultants and longtime personal friends and advisers of the candidate. Romney seems to have this and will hopefully retain it moving forward, because the diverting free advice will be in abundance.

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.