Archives: Romney’s campaign shares similarities with Clinton’s failed bid

Originally published in October 2011
Simon Nguyen

Mitt Romney is hoping his presidential run won’t suffer the same fate as that of Hillary Clinton. The former Massachusetts governor, who has been the GOP frontrunner since the beginning the nomination race, is facing a strong challenge from conservative favorite Herman Cain. As a matter of fact, the latest NBC/WSJ poll shows Herman Cain in the lead with 27 percent. This is the first time in a while Mitt Romney has failed to rank first in a major poll.

One lesson the Romney’s campaign should learn from Hillary Clinton’s failed bid is to not underestimate a candidate’s momentum. The Clinton’s campaign did not take Barack Obama seriously in the early stages of the 2008 Democratic race, only to regret it later when the tide had turned. Much like Clinton in 2008, Mitt Romney has been running a frontrunner’s campaign, aligning to the political center with moderate and centrist stances.

What the former Massachusetts governor has failed to realize is that change is still the dominant mood in the country. There is a reason why most Republican voters have not coalesced around Mitt Romney, even though he is the most polished candidate in the race. Fairly or unfairly, Romney is viewed by the GOP base as the establishment candidate. This leaves a big opening for someone like Herman Cain, who has never been elected to public office, to run as a Washington outsider and an agent of change.

Although the merit of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan is being questioned, the plan does go to the heart of conservative values. Change, in Republican terms, is low taxation and a smaller government. This is the very reason why Cain’s popularity with GOP voters continues to climb, despite the fact that his tax proposal has been criticized by key figures from both parties. As Barack Obama had demonstrated in the 2008 election, ideals trump specifics in primary elections. Clinton learned this painful lesson three years ago. If Romney is to win the nomination, he will need to avoid repeating Clinton’s mistake.

What Mitt Romney needs to do to thwart Herman Cain’s momentum is to run a Republican primary campaign, instead of a general election campaign. He should not assume that GOP voters will hand him the nomination just because he is seen as more electable than his rivals.

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