What is the narrative of the campaign so far? It might seem to be a bit nebulous since it might revolve in the end on whether Mitt Romney is a tax dodger. Last week I had an encounter with a businessman that might shed some light on what might be the story of the election – especially as the polls admittedly are beginning to bounce all over the place.
On a return trip from New York to Texas aboard a crummy US Airways flight, I did not engage the businessman so much in conversation as simply listen to him. As a journalist, I have learned 20 minutes with an unknown fellow passenger whom one will never see again can be more valuable than reams of expensive poll data.
The gentleman in question was on his way from suburban New Jersey to Cincinnati via Charlotte, North Carolina. A more direct, more expensive flight was out of the question in today’s economy. He had his vice president for sales with him. The cost of flying directly to Ohio was not in their budgets.
“I might have to sit this one out,” he said, referring to the election and betraying a reluctance that was not all that convincing. He spoke in the way most voters express themselves these days, in a stream of consciousness, interrupting themselves in the process. “I would vote for Romney if, well, I don’t know. Obama is a failed President. But, you know, the Republicans have been taken over by all these social issues people, the economy is bad, but Romney? I’m an independent voter, but, I don’t know.”
I just listened.
He continued: “I voted for Obama, but, I don’t know. My wife says, well, that’s another issue. These Republicans – who has time for all those social issues?” He was asking himself as much as he was asking Mitt Romney’s campaign. During the time he was speaking, he moved his head from side to side, in a disapproving way that was revealing.
Transferring planes in Charlotte, he headed back north. I got the distinct impression he was doing the same with Obama. He was simply verbalizing his way through a campaign that is useless so far to him, a voter who wants to move away from Obama but with nowhere to go.
You have to have somebody to beat somebody, and so far the Romney campaign has given these voters little reason to move in the direction they want to go. The Obama team’s best weapon against Romney is Romney himself — especially with independent voters. And Romney’s gaffes in London can’t help.
Feel free to forward these blogs adapted from previous writings, with additional thoughts published invariably in between.