James Carville famously coined the "the economy, stupid" phrase as an internal reminder for Clinton's successful unseating of Bush 41. It's been famously referred to over and over about how the economy is almost always the number 1 issue important to Americans. Anyone following the Romney campaign can almost envision there's a similar sign hung in Romney's Boston campaign headquarters. It's painfully obvious when you see Romney doing his best not to get baited by the liberal media by steering his responses back to the economy. It's a good tactic to keep out of the weeds, so to speak and has served him well at times.
But, there's only one problem: It's more than the economy, stupid. There's two factors why this is and it's important to understand both.
First, look at the context of the phrase's original use. It was used by a Democrat against a Republican during the recession that hit in 1991/1992 almost right after Desert Storm. Remember, in most elections, the battle is to get to the votes of those fickle fence sitting independents, centrists, and warbling members of the opposing party without alienating your entrenched base. In 1992, these would have been independents, slightly right of center and/or disenfranchised Republicans. A message about the economy was more likely to resonate with them. And if the result can serve as a conclusion, it did.
But now, let's take 2012's context. You have a Republican trying to defeat a sitting Democrat. So who are the fickles? Independents (of course) and warbling/alienated Democrats. And while the economy is good sermon for the congregation (aka republicans) and can sway some independents, that tactic by itself will not be able to sway Democrats enough to break party lines.
Second, and even more damning, is that the Blamer-In-Chief, along with his cohorts, has been sticking to the Blame Bush plan from the get go, riding his unpopularity to absolve themselves of accountability in the eyes of their liberal followers. And while a conservative whose more used to taking responsibility for their actions might point out that at some point, he has to take the blame, that doesn't fly too well with liberals. Liberals/Leftists, in general, are quite adept at dodging accountability. Not only dodging their own accountability, but are more readily accepting of another liberal's shift of blame. Especially if the blame targets a conservative. And polls, which tend to have a leftist bias, show that most of the country still blames Bush for the economy. It's a very convenient and effective excuse.
It doesn't matter how many facts or numbers Romney throws out. Those that are sold on the Blame Bush strategy will just attribute it to Bush. You can point out some specifics that place blame squarely on Obama's shoulders, but it won't matter. Because every president makes mistakes. And when a president is tasked with cleaning up the insurmountable mess Bush left behind (in their minds), there's bound to be failures. This is enough for those warbling Democrats to write off the economy as an issue. Thus, for the Romney campaign, it has to be more.
I'll point to the wisdom of two men I admire greatly: Dennis Prager and Arthur C. Brooks. Prager writes that feelings are the most important thing to a leftist. They base their decisions on how it'll make them feel. Brooks points out that in order to win the free market debate, advocates have to elicit a moral argument that will resonate more than numbers will. Combine the two asserations and you get that Romney needs to appeal to leftist feelings (aka the moral argument) if he wants to sway them to his side. Continuously spouting numbers that leftists will handily just write off as Bush's fault is a tactic that will fail on its own.
And how does do this? Through his character. Looking like a stuffy business man isn't cutting it.
Obama has been compared to Jimmy Carter on numerous occasions; both being labeled ineffectual. It's an inevitable comparison seeing that this is the first time a Democratic president has been in trouble for re-election since Carter himself. And so while Obama has met that ineffectual criteria (with even more troubling characteristics than Carter ever had), the issue is Romney is definitely no Ronald Reagan. Reagan had charisma that made people like him and captured the hearts of many Americans. He wasn't called the Great Communicator because he was good at parroting his campaign's talking points. He was called that because he was able to communicate with the country effectively. He also had the courage to say what he thought was right, even when his advisors in the government advised him not to say things like "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." or call the Soviet Union an "evil empire". It showed that he was a leader.
That's what Romney needs to do. He needs to LEAD. Leaders inspire. Leaders have the courage to do and say things that no one else will. While being a business man gives him great economic credentials, it's not inspiring. A president has to be more. Being better at minimizing damage than McCain isn't going to win an election against a likable incumbent. I'm not saying he should try to emulate Reagan. But what I am saying is that a presidential election is ultimately a referendum on all fronts, including character. If there's any job on the face of the planet where only the highest standards are accepted, it should be the one that serves as the unofficial leader of the free world.
People want to see Mitt's courage and character. Enough with the business stuff; we know Romney has the business savvy to enact smart fiscal policy. It's close to time to take the fight to the liberals and show the people that Mitt Romney is not afraid to stand up to the decrepit leftist tactics being wielded against him. Another man I admire to which I'll always quote: As Scott Walker said, you need to have courage to do the right thing. Take the gloves off, Mitt (pun semi intended). Lead your campaign like a boss. America is waiting.