John Boehner: I Can’t Make You Love Romney, Because Most Of America Won’t

John Boehner speaks an inconvenient, for Mitt Romney at least, truth.

Speaker of the House John Boehner made some remarks to a group of Republican fundraisers that are, well, less than helpful to the Romney campaign:

(CBS News) When House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, endorsed Mitt Romney for president in April, he pledged to do “everything I can to help him win.”

In his words, however, the one thing he can’t do is make voters “fall in love” with the candidate.

peaking last week at a fundraiser in Wheeling, W.Va., Boehner was surprisingly candid in his characterization of Romney’s candidacy when asked, in a question-and-answer session: “Can you make me love Mitt Romney?”

“No,” he answered, as first reported by Roll Call. “Listen, we’re just politicians. I wasn’t elected to play God. The American people probably aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.”

He added that the presumptive Republican nominee had “some friends, relatives, and fellow Mormons… some people that are going to vote for him,” but suggested that at the end of the day, Republicans would be voting against President Obama rather than for Romney.

“I’ll tell you this: 95 percent of the people that show up to vote in November are going to show up in that voting booth, and they are going to vote for or against Barack Obama,” Boehner said. “This election is going to be a referendum on the president’s failed economic policies. ”

Calling Romney a “solid guy,” Boehner went on to say that the former Massachusetts governor is “going to do a great job, even if you don’t fall in love with him.”

I kind of get what Boehner was trying to say here. Presented with a question from a woman asking whether he could make her “fall in love” with Mitt Romney, he tried to shift the question to the argument that the election is going to be about Barack Obama, not Mitt Romney. That’s always what the party challenging an incumbent President wants to do. The thing is that, absent a Presidency that is an utter disaster, you still have to present a viable alternative and, for many voters, that means a candidate that they can vote for not just a vehicle for voting against the incumbent. In the end, I think Boehner is right and this race will be a referendum on Obama’s first term, but there still has to be a  viable alternative. Maybe Mitt Romney is that guy, but that question remains open for debate.

One can argue over whether or not it matters if voters “fall in love” with a candidate, but that’s really beside the point. Ever since the modern media age began it’s been a fact of life that the line between the personal and political world had become blurred. For example, it’s undeniable that John F. Kennedy’s youth, charm, and good looks were a significant factor in his victory in 1960. Had Kennedy run in an era before mass media, a race between him and Richard Nixon likely would’ve turned out very differently. Similarly, Ronald Reagan’s skill in front of a camera, and his personal charm, contributed greatly to his political success in California and then in his race for the Presidency. In both 2000 and 2004, many people remarked the George W. Bush was a far more personable, relateable candidate than either of his opponents. And, finally, one cannot deny the role that charisma played in the media firestorm and mass appeal that grew around Barack Obama’s seemingly improbably campaign for the presidency in 2007-2008. Maybe this isn’t how the world should be, maybe we need to spend more time paying attention to the candidates ideas and much less attention to trivial personal matters.  This, however, is the world we live in, and the Romney campaign can no more ignore the likability factor than it can ignore the importance of winning Ohio.

Boehner’s comment raises an eyebrow because it was phrased in a way that actually hurts Romney rather than advancing the Republican argument that the election is a referendum on Obama. One of Mitt Romney’s biggest problems in the polls has been the likability gap between himself and the President. Leaving aside the President’s job approval numbers and the horse race numbers, the one thing that remains true in poll after poll is that the President’s personal favorability is far better than Romney’s. Partly, of course, this is a leftover effect from the 2008 election as well as the general sense of familiarity that the public has with a man who has been President for 3 1/2 years now. However, this favorability gap potentially gives the President an advantage in a close election because it may cause people sitting on the fence to vote for him over Romney. Until Romney closes that gap, he’s going to be at risk and Boehner just pointed out the fact that people aren’t falling in love with Mitt Romney. That most assuredly does not help the campaign.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Argon says:

    Trouble is, if we vote against Obama, we get Romney *and* Boehner. Ick.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    A June poll in Colorado:

    Romney leads Obama among senior citizens by 14 points—but loses among everyone else by 12 points.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I’ve been pointing to this for a long time. The more people see of Romney the less they like him. My pull-it-out-of-the-air guess is that likability is 5% of the vote. In a close race that’s a big problem.

    This also puts Romney in a box in terms of his strategy. He needs to attack Mr. Obama, but the more he attacks, the more he hurts his likability. If we’d had a couple of decent jobs reports I’d say there’s no way Romney wins — no one wants to spend 4 years looking at this guy.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    I’m a little worried that Romney will be somewhat analogous to Nixon in 1968 – people didn’t especially like or trust Nixon, and Nixon like Romney, did not believe in anything but getting elected – but voters decided to give Nixon a narrow victory over the Democratic alternative.

    To be sure, the circumstances are not the same as in 1968, however it is possible that voters could well decide that Romney, despite his obvious inauthenticity and phoniness, is preferable to what we’ve had for the past 4 years.

    Voters could decide to give the keys to the entire government to the GOP and head for the cliff. It is definitely possible.

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    I will be interested to see what the polls look like when Johnson is included.

  6. Herb says:

    @Ron Beasley: From what I hear, he’s polling in the single digits down in NM, which I think will be the apex of Johnson’s run since they know him best and an overwhelming majority (90%+) still prefer either Obama or Romney.

    That said….I don’t get any of these down votes. I hope it’s not Jenos out for some payback.

  7. Mr. Prosser says:

    @al-Ameda: I’m not sure the ’68 election would be one to compare this to. In my opinion Nixon was given the win by Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden and the rest of the Chicago Seven. Humphrey was a much more likable candidate but the riots ruined any chance he had. The country is divided this year but not in any way that it was in ’68. That was my first year to vote. I voted military absentee for Dick Gregory from a base on the Mekong.

  8. G.A. says:

    how do you guys feel about a bash Obama day for the rest of us or is that asking to much around here?

  9. al-Ameda says:

    @Mr. Prosser:

    I’m not sure the ’68 election would be one to compare this to.

    You’re right, 1968 was unlike any other year in modern history. I was attempting to anologize Romney to Nixon in the sense that neither was/is especially ‘likable’ or principled, and that sometimes voters do not care about that.

  10. Ron Beasley says:

    @Mr. Prosser: I think you are right. Humphrey was beat by the hippies. That was the first election I voted in – you had to be 21 back then. The nasty Democratic convention also had something to do with it.

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @G.A.:

    how do you guys feel about a bash Obama day for the rest of us or is that asking to much around here?

    So, 3 and a half years just isn’t good enough for you?

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    @Herb: Even taking 1 or 2 percent from Romney could decide the elction in some states.

  13. G.A. says:

    So, 3 and a half years just isn’t good enough for you?

    lol,I was taking to the writers here not to myself….

    I figured most of heart bridge made up of the trolls of old would be a lost cause.

  14. Herb says:

    @Ron Beasley: That’s certainly true. Indeed, where I “heard” about Johnson’s poll numbers, it was in a blog post talking about just such a phenomenon.

    Key graph:

    Al Gore would have become president in 2000 if Ralph Nader had failed to make the ballot in New Hampshire. Nader got 22,198 votes there; Gore lost the state to Bush by 7,211 votes. Nothing could have saved John McCain in 2008, but had Bob Barr failed to make the North Carolina ballot, McCain might have won the state — 25,722 votes for the Libertarian, only 14,177 votes separating Obama from the loser.

  15. Lib Cap says:

    … This sentiment may explain why there is such a push for voter ID laws / disenfranchisement by the GOP.

    If you can eliminate a million or two voters, then those that are permitted to vote will like Willard.

    … But the definitely won’t love him.

  16. Tillman says:

    @Lib Cap: The better explanation is this one. Republicans like the voters they already have, and these newbies come in and ruin everything.

  17. paladin says:

    We elected an idolized, idealized ideologue in ’08 and it didn’t work out so well by practically all objective measures (unemployment, food stamp usage, etc.) so how about we elect someone who couldn’t win American Idol but is, you know, competent?

    Nah! We want rock stars, not boring people with a history of solid accomplishment.

  18. al-Ameda says:

    @paladin:

    Nah! We want rock stars, not boring people with a history of solid accomplishment.

    Exactly. What American can’t relate to a man who made his $250M fortune by acquiring companies, stripping away assets, closing operations and laying off American workers?

  19. Ron Beasley says:

    @paladin: The thing that most worries me about Romney is on the Foreign Policy front. As near as I can tell he has little knowledge of it himself and is surrounded by Bush/Cheney retreads like John Bolton. We could expect more wars that weren’t paid for and more dead Americans. Not to mention that attacking Iran would be enough to send the world into a depression.

  20. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Meh.

    Boehner simply was being an adult about things. To have gone the other direction would have been disingenuous pandering and, quite frankly, sheer frivolity. Besides, Zombieland needs a good swift kick in the arse, not rainbows and lollipops.

    Regarding that whole for / against dichotomy, it’s true that you can’t beat an incumbent with nothing (Reid – Angle is the most recent of many examples), but Romney is far more than nothing. The seasoned, working and middle class adults who make up a significant majority of the voting electorate will understand that. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Romney will win. Obama will receive 95% of the black vote on heavy turnout. Millions of evangelicals will stay home and not vote. Those are tough rows to hoe. It does mean, however, that Romney has got a real fighting chance. That’s a lot more than can be said of any other Republican this particular election cycle.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    The seasoned, working and middle class adults who make up a significant majority of the voting electorate will understand that how he made his money by shipping jobs overseas.

    Happy to be of help…

  22. G.A. says:

    What American can’t relate to a man who made his $250M fortune by acquiring companies, stripping away assets, closing operations and laying off American workers?

    Obama gots that much loot already..damn!!!!

  23. Lib Cap says:

    @G.A.:

    Obama gots that much loot already..damn!!!!

    Ahhhh… no.

    Obama made 700K in 2011.

    http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/13/news/economy/obama_tax_return/index.htm

    And, Obama has released all his tax returns (long form, I hear).

    Whereas Willard has release ONE year of returns. O N E .

    250 Mil becomes an embrarassment when it is made from destrying companies and laying off Americans… especially when you want to be the leader of those folk.

    Where is the outrage demanding Willard’s tax returns to be released?

    (… crickets.)

    Yeah… nobody is gonna fall in love with THAT, once this campaign really heats up.

  24. DRS says:

    The problem with using JFK as a popularity yardstick is that his murder overshadows everything. He’s the great “might-have-been-if-only”. If only he’d lived, he’d have…

    1. …kept us out of Vietnam.

    2. …driven Castro out of Cuba.

    3. …brought in non-divisive civil rights legislation.

    4. …given out free ponies for all the children.

    Well, maybe not that one. But it’s hard to compete with a dead demi-god.

  25. Ron Beasley says:

    @Lib Cap: Don’t Feed The Trolls!!!

  26. michael reynolds says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    That’s a lot more than can be said of any other Republican this particular election cycle.

    Only because the rest of the GOP hopefuls either wimped out (Pawlenty, Daniels) were insane, (Bachmann, Caine, Santorum, Paul,) or too sane for the GOP (Huntsman) idiots (Perry) or even more unlikable than Romney (Gingrich.)

    Your team has an extremely weak bench. Your one good candidate has the misfortune of being the brother of a recent failed GOP president. There’s a reason for this: Republicans are ninnies, which is how you end up with a candidate who makes money by killing jobs, sticks his money in off-shore accounts, is a bishop in what is arguably a cult and can’t relate to, you know, humans.

    This should be close to a gimme for the GOP, but the GOP is a wreck.

  27. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @paladin: “so how about we elect someone who couldn’t win American Idol but is, you know, competent?”

    Yeah! I’ll vote for that guy, who is he? Oh…you mean Romney…

    Well… never mind…

  28. Nequelquepart says:

    I’m not sure which I prefer more…a hot steamy turd in my breakfast cereal or that weeping fool as speaker. Boener needs to stfu unless he is announcing impeachment of Obama or sending holder to prison.

  29. labman57 says:

    Many conservative and tea party Republicans regard candidate Romney in the same way that many young women feel about their betrothed … in an arranged marriage.

    Most Independent and many moderate voters view him as a blind date gone bad.

    And of course, most progressives can barely tolerate listening to the guy.

    In other words, “falling in love” with Romney is setting the bar a tad too high.

  30. An Interested Party says:

    Boener needs to stfu unless he is announcing impeachment of Obama or sending holder to prison.

    You’ll have a better chance of finding a hot steamy turd in your breakfast cereal than either of those two scenarios actually happening…

  31. @G.A.:

    how do you guys feel about a bash Obama day for the rest of us or is that asking to much around here?

    That’s funny, and a fair request. The thing is, I think there have been threads on Obama weaknesses: economy, health care, fast and furious, etc. That not too much has stuck … might be a problem for critics.

  32. G.A. says:

    That’s funny, and a fair request. The thing is, I think there have been threads on Obama weaknesses: economy, health care, fast and furious, etc. That not too much has stuck … might be a problem for critics.

    Plenty has stuck, but here, I will clear it up a bit for you..

    Can we have a Sara Palin Obama day round here for the rest of us?

  33. al-Ameda says:

    @G.A.:

    Can we have a Sara Palin Obama day round here for the rest of us?

    Every day in the idiocracy world is a Sarah Palin day.
    Every day in the Birther world is an Obama day.
    Does that help?

  34. J.D. Rhoades says:

    @Ron Beasley: Well, if the purists of the left have their way–you know, the ones who insist that Obama’s no different from Romney as far as they’re concerned because they didn’t get everything they wanted–then the same thing could happen.

  35. anjin-san says:

    We elected an idolized, idealized ideologue in ’08 and it didn’t work out so well by practically all objective measures

    I guess avoiding a depression, saving the American auto industry, planting Bin Laden at the bottom of the ocean (have not seen much of Gaddafi either) and getting us on the road to health insurance for the millions of our citizens does not count. What am I saying? Of course it doesn’t.

  36. Nikki says:

    @michael reynolds: The GOP is the crucible of American politics. We’ve reached the point where we are forced to choose between scions rather than statesmen. Nothing will cure that except campaign finance reform.

  37. An Interested Party says:

    This shouldn’t be shocking to anyone that Boehner feels this way…just as Sarah Palin learned in 2008, no matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it’s still a pig…

  38. Ed D says:

    This election looks like the election of ’96 to me. The GOP is deliberately running a candidate that only the most delusional GOP koolade drinkers will vote for. Just as they pushed Droning Bobby Dole out there as a soft pitch that Clinton could knock out of the park, they’re handing voters Mitt Romney, as their only alternative to Obama.

    They intend to throw this election, just as they did the election of ’96. The two parties take turns having two terms in the White House. Watch and see.