Mitt the Wimp

Back on October 19, 1987, Newsweek had a cover story on George H. W. Bush and “The Wimp Factor.”  He won in 1988, basically because the country wanted a third Reagan term, but lost in 1992, when he ran on his own, with the Reagan glow faded.  He famously looked at his watch during a presidential debate and sounded too patrician when he asked for “just a splash” more coffee at a NH diner.

Newsweek latest cover is also about “The Wimp Factor,” this time applied to Mitt, who is not running as the vice presidential heir to a popular president.

The story is sure to generate some buzz for Newsweek, which desperately needs it.  It won’t help Mitt because the Gucci loafer definitely fits.  He’s much more of a wimp than Bush 41, who was a fighter pilot in WWII and ran the CIA.  He’s definitely a “just a splash” guy.

What Newsweek calls wimpy, I call preppy.  I believe that the less preppy-seeming person usually wins.  Both Obama and Mitt went to prep school (Obama on scholarship).  But Mitt seems so much more preppy, just as John Kerry and Al Gore both seemed more preppy than Bush 43, even though all three went to elite prep schools.  Bush played the pork-rind-loving Texan all the way to the Oval Office.

Mitt Is Bush 41

I keep reading comparisons between Mitt and Bob Dole.  Historically, that makes sense because Dole ran in 1996 against an incumbent Dem, Bill Clinton, who had suffered major losses in the preceding congressional races of 1994.

But I think personality-wise, Mitt is more like Bush 41 and comes with his out-of-touch, rich guy, patrician liabilities.  Bush won in 1988 because the country wanted a third Reagan term.  When he ran in 1992, no longer wrapped in the Reagan mantle, voters didn’t like him.

Bush was distrusted by conservatives in his second run because he’d broken his “Read my lips, no new taxes” pledge.  Mitt suffers from that same mistrust because of his flip-flops and prior support for abortion and gay rights when he ran in Massachusetts.  He’s also the father of the individual health care mandate that conservatives used to support, but now believe is unconstitutional.

Less ideological voters turned against Bush in 1992 because his preppie persona contrasted poorly with Clinton’s warmth and folkiness.  The tax thing didn’t bother them as much as Bush himself did.

My theory of presidential elections is that the less preppie-seeming guy always wins.

Both Mitt and President Obama went to very fancy prep schools (the President got a scholarship), but Mitt has led a much more privileged, sheltered life, and it shows.  He can’t manage to sound convincing when he proclaims his concern for the middle class.  He’s never spent a day of his life as an actual member of the middle class.

What happens when two preppies run against each other?  Al Gore and Bush 43 both went to very elite prep schools.  But Bush managed to come across as more down-home Texas than high-flown Andover.

The less preppie guy wins — Obama beats Mitt.