There is nothing more dangerous than engaging in battle with someone who has nothing to lose. And despite appearances to the contrary, Mitt Romney has nothing to lose in this presidential race. There may be some elements of the Republican Party who believe a lot is riding on this election and there may even be some people whose hopes to work in a Romney administration tied to a certain outcome, but win or lose, Romney comes out of this whole.
As a result, he can afford word gaffes and taking potshots at the president, even if his information is inaccurate, that won’t hurt him nearly as much as it will hurt President Obama.
He can cause a stir in London, criticizing that city’s security preparations for the Olympics and go to Israel and hold forth about Iran’s nuclear capacity and suggest that Israel is well within its rights to do whatever it thinks necessary to stop the Iranians, because he is not the president and not responsible for foreign policy.
He’s not even officially the GOP nominee yet. His pronouncements are the political equivalent of shaking a soda and handing it back to the Obama administration to open.
People don’t really care if Romney is rich or how he got there. They don’t really care whom he may choose as a running mate. They don’t even care that his platform, so far, is largely a cookie cutter agenda set by the Republican Party, which is designed to balance the nation’s budget on the back of the middle- and working-classes.
So Romney doesn’t even need a stealth campaign in which he can look presidential and above the fray while Super PACS and surrogates make outrageous claims.
President Obama is struggling with a stagnant economy and frustrated voters who don’t trust that government can actually help address their problems. He also is struggling to fight deliberate misinterpretations of his positions, the taking of his words out of context (“You didn’t build that.”).
Keeping the country polarized by painting the president as something he is not helps the Romney campaign strategy to shrink the number of moderate undecided voters who could actually swing the election.
So it really does come down to the numbers. The candidate who can successfully shave 5 to 10 points from those groups of voters leaning strongly for one candidate or the other may have found the successful formula.
Romney doesn’t need a gigantic shift in the Jewish vote, for example, just enough to move some disaffected Jewish voters, angry because Obama has yet to visit Israel, and who like the idea that Romney might be able to capitalize on his longtime friendship with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He knows he won’t be able to woo large numbers of Latinos to his side, but a 10-point shift may be enough to affect the outcome.
Add to that Progressives and African Americans who believe Obama didn’t do enough to address their needs and may decide to sit out this election and suddenly the race gets this close.
If the strategy works, Obama is out and Romney is in. If the strategy fails, Romney doesn’t win, but he gets to go back to his millions in all their tax havens and will likely be invited back to Wall Street or elsewhere in the private sector and be very handsomely compensated.
You can hardly call that losing.
Jackie Jones, a veteran journalist and journalism educator, is director of Jones Coaching LLC, a career transformation firm.