Will it matter if Obama “defines” Romney early?

May 19, 2012

Stuart Rothenberg doesn’t think so:

Romney may well have failed to define himself as he would have liked to at this point, and that certainly is something his campaign needs to address. But I’m skeptical that it’s fatal. I’m not even certain the Republican nominee “needs to define himself quickly.”

Don’t get me wrong. The “define your opponent before he can define himself” argument is a compelling one when it comes to House races, low-visibility contests or even statewide contests when one of the candidates may not have the cash to compete. Voters usually don’t prefer candidates with a lot of negative baggage (though in the past three elections they have elected some “change” candidates with considerable personal baggage).

But presidential contests are different.

Unlike most elections in this country, by the end of the campaign, most voters are going to have watched Romney and President Barack Obama repeatedly, including in three live presidential debates that will draw tens of millions of viewers.

Those viewers will come to know the candidates (or believe that they know the candidates) and draw their own conclusions and assessments.

Obviously, a candidate can’t ignore how his opponent defines him. Ads and messages in the free media create impressions with voters — impressions that a damaged candidate must try to change. Because it’s easier to create impressions than to change them, Romney can’t simply give his opponents a free hand in defining him.

But unlike Sen. John Kerry, who ignored attacks on his military record during his 2004 presidential campaign, Romney’s campaign has already demonstrated that it won’t hesitate to answer attacks. And the former Massachusetts governor certainly will have the time and resources to define himself (including at his party’s national convention) and to address the caricatures being drawn of him by his opponents. He need not panic.


Clearly, Romney will need to cross some threshold of acceptability as a potential president. Voters aren’t going to send just anyone to the White House. But when November rolls around, the question of who Romney is might not be nearly as important to voters as how well Obama has done.

6 Responses to Will it matter if Obama “defines” Romney early?

  1. P. Tillman on May 19, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Romney really doesn’t need any help destroying his image, I would get out of his way and let him talk.

  2. ATTILA on May 19, 2012 at 8:39 am

    P tillpussy and his leftist ilk will be unhappy campers
    when obumbler packs his bags and leaves the WH.

    • P. Tillman on May 19, 2012 at 8:45 am

      Yes, when that happens we’ll be unhappy, but so will everyone else because that will be the day hell freezes over.

      • Dennis on May 19, 2012 at 9:09 am

        And I wondered why the temperatures were getting colder.

  3. Oiyethere on May 19, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Romney is better than having a president who thinks the problem with america is that we have americans who make too much, that americans shouldnt be allowed to make souch and the current pratice of having 49 percent pay NO INCOME TAX while the richest 10% pay more 80% is not unfair enough…cuz the rich arent paying enough…and thats what fair means…

  4. james on May 19, 2012 at 10:44 am

    It’s just my opinion, but I think the Obama campaign is going to be in for an unpleasant surprise with Romney.

    The plan is to smear him early as a patrician one-percenter and ride the class warfare train to victory with a divided electorate.

    They’re assuming Romney is another McCain. He’s not. He’s from the corporate world where you fight hard and dirty if necessary. He’s going to hit back. I don’t think the thin-skinned Obama will respond well, despite the circled MSM wagons.