Watters: Romney’s lacking charisma shows in dealings with media


Arabella Watters, Assistant Forum Editor

It has been impossible to ignore the latest and possibly greatest of Mitt Romney’s media missteps.

Last week Mother Jones released, probably smugly, “secret” video footage of Romney speaking to his donors and immortalizing his comments about the “47 percent” on the Internet. I was not surprised that Romney made these comments; I do not agree with everything he said, but I do think the hoopla around his statements is unnecessary. No, Romney does not have the most tact, but he was basically just prattling on about the same taxation and economic issues he has been for nearly a year now, except the coverage was on a smartphone instead of CNN. Unfortunately, I think the way Romney is handling the backlash to his comments is the real problem. The president of the United States will always make mistakes, but it is the way that he or she apologizes that really counts in the public eye.

A recent Gallup poll showed that six in 10 Americans have little or no trust for the American media, and out of the people who do trust the media, 58 percent identify themselves as Democrats, 26 percent as Republicans and 31 percent as Independents. Of people who consume media, Democrats make up a majority of those who believe what they see. If there is one thing I have learned as a journalism student, it is how to appeal to an audience. Thus, it makes sense that many of the big players in media these days are liberal. If the left wants to believe what it reads, then it is no great shock that the media wants to please its consumers. Romney has shown a weakness in standing up against a media that’s already gunning for his execution, and that is quickly becoming one of his largest impediments to election.

On the other hand, President Obama has shown a knack for handling the media in exactly the way Romney has proved time and time again he is unable to do. It pains me to say this, but Romney’s election does not even seem feasible in a distant universe. Romney’s latest mishap nailed shut the proverbial coffin that has been closing in slow motion for a while now and it is frustrating beyond belief.

Romney’s initial strengths—his eloquence, his consistency and, frankly, his lack of foolishness (Herman Cain, anyone?)—in the race for the Republican nomination have been his downfall in his presidential campaign. As a Harvard-educated businessman and a self-proclaimed self-starter, Romney is articulate and undoubtedly bright. However, he seems to have a couple fatal flaws. All the business acumen in the world is useless when paired with Romney’s lack of charm and humility.

It would be an understatement to say that Romney has been harangued in the media of late. The real problem, however, is that he does not really know how to apologize. Romney does not seem to know how to admit fallacy and he has embraced a half-hearted response to media skewering. I understand that Romney does not feel embarrassed or ashamed about his viewpoints, but I also believe that a presidential campaign is not just about what candidates think or feel but also how they present themselves. Candidates must have the ability to spin their thoughts into articulate stretches of the truth that get the population up and voting. It is the sad state of the political atmosphere right now, but desperation colors this election, and voters on both sides only want to hear what they want. Romney lacks the inherent charm to trick people into believing his not-so-backed-up policies, and he is only hurting his own cause by continuously having to stick his foot in his mouth.

Romney needs to realize that he is not going to win this election solely by attacking Obama, who is obviously well-liked. He also isn’t going to win it with his inconsistent charisma. Romney’s strength is that he has the ability to become a light at the end of this dark tunnel we call the Great Recession. He needs to focus on his policies and convince the American people that instead of an insensitive, elitist millionaire, he is simply a politician who wants to fix the economy. As a voter, I want more than a Band-Aid over an economic bullet hole. If Romney can manage to not stumble over his words for long enough to say something articulate, maybe he’ll get elected. He has six more weeks to make his case.

Arabella Watters is a Medill sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].