David Cameron has a Mitt Romney Problem

by on 17 January, 2013

Dan-WhitfieldDan Whitfield discusses the similarities between David Cameron and Mitt Romney – and how this spells bad news for Cameron:

After Mitt
Romney, the Republican nominee for President was defeated last November, British
political prognosticators predicted that the result was a good omen for David
Cameron and a warning for his opposite number on the Labour benches, Ed
Miliband.

They are wrong.

It’s easy to see
why the experts made such a mistake.  After
all, President Obama won reelection with unemployment hovering at 8% –
something no occupant of the White House has ever done before (the closest was
Ronald Reagan, who was reelected in 1984 with unemployment at 7.2%).  Obama won in spite of the gridlock paralyzing
Washington (for which he is largely responsible), contempt for politicians at
record levels, and smoldering resentment over his reform of the American
healthcare system.

President Obama
also won despite his opponent, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney,
effectively stealing the mantle of change.

Such
similarities to the political situation in the UK will not have gone unnoticed
by Tory High Command.  That's why, on the
surface, President Obama's reelection is delightful news for Cameron.  Even now, perhaps, advice is being poured
into the Prime Minister's ear, urging him to follow the path blazed by the
President.  To win a reelection campaign
of his own, all David Cameron need do is remind voters of the mess he
inherited, emphasize the indicators which point to an economic recovery, and expose
his opponents glaring shortcomings. 
Follow the Obama recipe, and another 5 years in Downing Street beckon.

But a close look
at exit polling should have Conservatives nervous.  It shows that Mitt Romney lost for exactly
the same reasons that have damaged British Tories generally, and David Cameron
in particular.

The Fox News
exit poll showed that by a margin of ten points, voters thought Obama was “more
in touch with people like me.”  By a
whopping 81-18 margin people believed President Obama to be the more empathetic
candidate. Governor Romney did win majorities of voters who wanted “a vision
for the future” (54-45) and “a candidate who shares my values” (55-42), but was
undone by the fact that so many voters believed his policies would favor the
rich, effectively neutralizing his greatest strength: that he was the candidate
best equipped to turn around America's faltering economy.

Thus was
Romney's campaign was undone.  Much has
been written about the changing demographics of America – a worthy topic – but
the bottom line remains that people will not vote for a candidate they do not
like, irrespective of the colour of their skin. 
President Obama had a favorability rating of +7, while Gov. Romney,
suffering from millions of dollars’ worth of unanswered attack ads, had a
negative favorability rating of -3.

In the UK, there
are chilling similarities to Gov. Romney's position and David Cameron's, though
the Prime Minister does outperform the Republican in some crucial polling
questions.

An Ipsos-Mori
poll published just before party conference season in September shows Cameron
trailing by ten points on the issue of who “represents people like me.” And he
clings to a tiny two-point led when voters are asked to choose who “has the
right values.”

There is good
news for Mr. Cameron in the poll: by healthy margins he beats out Mr. Miliband
when voters are asked who is more “Prime Ministerial,” “likeable,” and “a good
person,” although Mr. Miliband does win on the question of “who will protect
British jobs.”

The Prime
Minister therefore is not in as near a bad a position as Gov. Romney, but his
polling numbers show they both share the same problems as a candidate: people
doubt their values, and question both their privilege, and their commitment to
jobs for the middle class.

The similarities
between Romney and Cameron go beyond mere polling.  Both come from what most people would agree
is “the 1%.”  Their upbringings
encompassed the very best schools and colleges, and they enjoy enormous wealth
beyond the means of most families.  Hence
why Mr. Cameron is so sensitive to attacks upon his background: deep down, he
fears they may actually work.  The
polling shows he is correct to hold such fears.

Mitt Romney's
candidacy fell victim to attacks on his character and background which he
inexplicably failed to rebut until the last few weeks of the campaign.  David Cameron, a far better politician, knows
to insulate himself against charges that his policies favor the rich and that
he is out of touch.  Hence the statement,
trotted out by his front bench team, that “we are all in this together,” and
the Prime Minister's reluctance to lower the top rate of income tax during the
negotiations over last year’s budget.

But these
solutions are only temporary.  What is
the answer to the long-term problem that people incorrectly associate
right-of-center parties with policies that favor the elite?  After all, it is parties of the left that
have destroyed state-education in their craven worship of the teaching unions,
thus harming the life-chances of those from the middle class.  And it was left-wing politicians who allowed
giant corporations like GE, Apple, and Google to pay obscenely low levels of
tax, foisting the tax-burden instead on middle class families not as well
connected as the CEOs of leading multinationals.

As in so much in
politics, there is no easy solution.  But
there is cause for optimism: the Republican Party is hungry for power, and its
hunger will compel it to confront the problems which beset the Romney
candidacy.  Already the conservative
media is abuzz with suggestions on how to improve the standing of the GOP.  Tories, with the election of 2015 inching
closer, should pay close heed.   After all, true leaders do not shed their ideology
and flee to the middle ground for safety; they bring the middle ground to them.

Dan Whitfield is a writer living in Washington, DC, specializing in the conservative routes of America’s founding.  Previously Dan worked for the Leadership Institute, America’s largest training organization for conservative activists.

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