John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Turning Conventional Wisdom

Posted on August 24, 2012

The conventional wisdom at the beach house needs to be turned if Mitt Romney is going to be able to win this November.

My wife’s girlfriends all gather together for a week each August at the beach, and I had the opportunity to visit with them for a couple days.

I asked them point blank who they thought would win the election.  They all said  Obama, even though they all wanted Romney.

This small focus group is not atypical.

Anytime I ask a professional woman between the ages of 40 to 50 who she thinks will win the election, they all say Obama.

Romney has some work to do with this demographic, convincing these ladies that he has a credible plan to win the White House.

And if he is to turn the conventional wisdom to his side, he has to start at the convention.

Romney is doing far better in the polls than he deserves, given the state of the Republican Party and the media’s campaign to make the GOP look even sillier.

So I continue to believe that he is in a strong position to win this election.

What Romney lacks, I believe, is a practical plan to convince more Republican-leaning women that he will not only win this election, but also that he can govern effectively.

Picking Paul Ryan as his running mate did little to advance that cause.  I like Paul, and I think he has excited a Republican base that is clearly not that excited with Romney, but the Ryan budget is not exactly great fodder for those wanting practicality in government.

Here are some ideas for Romney as he proceeds down his campaign path.

  1. First, he has to convince women voters that he will listen to their concerns.  I think one of the things that turned people against Obama was his refusal to listen when it came to his health care plan. Romney has a long record of listening, as a governor, as a business leader and as someone who helped to run the Olympics.  He should highlight that record.

  2. Second, Romney has a long record of working with people who disagree with him.  He is not a “take it or leave it” kind of guy.  He will cut a good deal, but he will cut a deal.  As governor of Massachusetts, he was able to make the state work and pass some important legislation.  He can work with Republicans and Democrats in a collaborative fashion.

  3. Third, Romney is not a Ron Paul libertarian who will destroy the safety net.  He needs to talk about how he will strengthen the safety net but will also give folks a hand-up, not a hand-out.  He has put Obama on the defensive on welfare to work requirements, and I think that has been effective.  But he has to lay out his own plans to help those in need.

  4. Fourth, he needs to put some practicality into his program.  He is still stuck in a primary mindset.  He still talks in ideological jargon that is off-putting to many female voters.  Give us some practical things you will do once you become President (and don’t just say repeal Obamacare).

  5. Fifth, better highlight female surrogates.  Kelly Ayotte is a working mother, a rising star in the party, and somebody who gets it.  Campaign with her (if she will let you).   Highlight other female business and political leaders.   Make sure they pass the likeablity test.  Ayotte is the best, but there are others, like Marsha Blackburn.  Condi Rice is another important figure (and she apparently has a terrific golf swing).

And don’t run away from your record in Massachusetts.  You did not govern as a right-wing zealot when you were governor.  Let the voters know that.

Conventional wisdom among the ladies is the Mitt Romney is going to lose.  He needs to change that perception if he wants to win this November.