Mitt Romney's Edge: Likability and the Desire to Shrink Your Tax Burden
Does campaign history repeat itself? While political consultants, scientists and pundits would like us to believe in the complexity of the process, some simple truths remain. When it comes to American voters, they want two things from their Presidential candidate: 1) they want to like the candidate for whom they vote, and 2) they like candidates that offer tax reductions.
A while back, a wise man questioned a political system, democracy, which would lead people to vote for the most “handsome” of candidates. Will Durant also tells us that Plato was worried that the “crowd” would become vulnerable to “flattery.” So old is the concern that voters become caught up in beauty contests rather than the best policies.
The fact that remains that American voters, especially in the television age, prefer to “like” their Presidents. Indeed, Facebook could write this simple story about the last 32 years of Presidential elections: the more “liked” candidate won.
Our recent past finds that voters chose the charismatic Reagan over the much less so Carter and Mondale. The first Bush beat the somewhat robotic and unsympathetic Michael Dukakis but he then lost to the younger, more telegenic Clinton. That same Clinton beat the older, stiffer and less likable Bob Dole. Bush 43 beat the awkward Gore and his makeup and wardrobe problems. Bush also beat a similarly awkward John Kerry. Most recently the young Obama beat the much older and less friendly John McCain.
If you look back on those races, experience did not triumph. Each winner was considered more likable than the candidate that lost.
Why does this matter? This week, Gov. Romney surpassed President Obama in likability. After a summer of negative ads against him, Romney effectively used the debate process to set aside the false images Obama spun. Beyond that, Obama’s aggressive style, along with Biden’s, likely reduced their likability.
History says that is not an insignificant leg up for Romney.
Economic historians may have a different take on how those candidates won. They would remind us that: All of those winners pushed for tax reductions. The losers, on the other hand, pushed for tax increases or had a history of doing so.
So we find that the tax cutting Reagan beat Carter and his bracket creep. Reagan also beat Fritz Mondale who specifically called for tax increases during his losing campaign. “Read my lips” Bush 41 beat Dukakis and his tax increasing ways. Bush 41 then lost to Clinton after Bush 41 raised taxes and Clinton campaigned on tax reductions. So how did Clinton win after he broke his promise – a broken promise that cost the Democrats the House? Clinton won by promising tax reductions again and the Republican-nominated Bob Dole who voted for many a tax hike dating back to the ...