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Poised for Defeat

The GOP's Mitt Romney is perfectly positioned to lose the November election. That is not to say his loss is inevitable, for a lot can happen in the remaining weeks and months before election day. But an examination of the candidate and his campaign strategy shows that all the factors leading to his defeat are already in place.

Today, most polls show Romney and Obama virtually neck and neck, with Obama enjoying perhaps an ever-so-slight lead in important battleground states such as Florida and Ohio. That's not good news for Romney. In an economy this bad for this long, any adult challenger without a criminal record ought to be at least five points ahead of Obama.

The first and foremost telltale sign of impending defeat is the candidate himself. By all accounts, Romney is a decent and honorable man. But he does not have the qualities of a winning presidential candidate. Instead, he has the qualities that are the hallmark of presidential losers. Think Mike Dukakis. Romney is the GOP's Dukakis, albeit better-looking. Both were liberal governors of Massachusetts; both were data-driven, even-tempered workman-like candidates. And like Dukakis before him, Romney is heralded by his campaign and his party as a technical "expert" -- in this case, from the business world -- who knows how to manage and get things done. If ever there were a dreary, ho-hum image, being a technocrat is it. Sure, people like to rely on managerial experts to get things done -- like relying on an accountant to do taxes -- but technocrats are never selected as leaders. Leaders lead by inspiration and charisma. Technical expertise, though it might have many virtues, is not by itself a leadership quality.

Then there's Romney's sincerity deficit. His flip flops are not minor defects. He flipped and flopped on big issues, not little ones, such as abortion, gun rights, and healthcare, giving important segments of the electorate plenty of reasons to doubt he is on their side. His own campaign persona presents only a slightly better, but nowhere more attractive picture. On the stump, he appears as though he came from central casting in a political movie in which he is to play the plausible candidate of the bad guys. He speaks well, but appears not to believe or care about what he says. One detects no moral convictions in his monotone voice or his gentlemanly rhetoric. His presence -- and speeches -- are like empty suits, devoid of meaningful connection with his audiences.

That absence of moral conviction is a major deficit in the campaign's strategy that points to electoral doom. GOP insiders report that the Romney campaign believes it will win by simply avoiding mistakes while reminding everyone how bad the economy is. Unfortunately, that strategy combined with Romney's gaping sincerity deficit, feeds directly into the Obama campaign strategy. Come November, the Obama campaign through its relentless negative advertising and transparent support from the corporate media, will have convinced at least half the country that Mitt Romney is responsible for the bad economy.

While Obama makes morality-tinged arguments voiced with positive concern about the plight of real people, Romney and his Republican surrogates talk about processes, statistics, and economic theory. No wonder voters see Obama as more likable by as much as 64 percent to 23 percent (as revealed in a recent ABC News -Washington Post poll). Democrats talk about real people and real problems and pound the table with moral fervor, while Republicans talk politely about theories and processes and abstractions. That's a problem that has plagued GOP candidates and conservatives especially for decades. Take the debate over the federal minimum wage, for example. When Dems want to raise it, they point out that real people cannot possibly live on how low it is and therefore argue it must be raised out of fairness. Anyone who objects is denounced as an uncaring Scrooge. Republicans always lose the argument because they complain that raising the minimum wage is a burden on businesses, particularly small ones. Some will even point out that raising the minimum wage causes unemployment when businesses reduce their workforce to cover the new higher cost of labor. Notice, however, that Republicans never wail about the plight of those who lose their jobs. No gnashing teeth, no wringing hands, no pounding the table, no fingers wagged at Dems to shame them for causing low-skilled workers to lose their jobs. Republicans seem genetically incapable of making moral arguments. As a result, Dems look like they care about people, and Republicans do not -- even though it is the Democrat policy that will shut real people out of real jobs.

The final factor signalling Romney's upcoming defeat is the apparent absence of genuine political instincts in Romney and his staff.  President Obama recently announced that he would grant work permits to potentially millions of illegal aliens of working age in an end-run around Congress to implement the rejected so-called Dream Act.  Some 12 million to 14 million American workers who are unemployed or under-employed will now be forced to compete for scarce jobs with illegal aliens who have no right to be in the U.S. or to work here.  Yet the Romney campaign couldn't bring itself to criticize the president's decision.  A loud, moral condemnation of Obama's executive favoritism for illegal workers would be boon to Romney's compaign among the white working class constituency in important battleground states like Ohio.  Romney needs to maximize his support among the white working class to win, but he and his team repeatedly flub the opportunities handed them to win those hearts and minds.

Faced with a bad economy and the choice between an Obama who claims to care about people compared to an out-of-touch, insincere rich guy whose pals are suspected of causing the bad economy, the voters' will pick the one perceived as compassionate.

Unless the Romney campaign starts talking about the suffering of real people and explains in moral terms who caused their suffering and offers a narrative about how and why Obama and his worldview are the cause, Romney loses in November.