Romney portends Alf Landon’s failure, not Reagan’s victory

I want to see Mitt Romney beat Barack H. Obama for President.  But I don’t think it is going to happen.  I think he is the wrong GOP candidate at the wrong time.  Like  Alf Landon in 1936.

I cringe when I hear the pro-Romney pundits reference Ronald Reagan’s 1980 come-from-behind victory as inspiration for a Romeny victory in 2012.  I think some of those pundits may never have been in the same room with Ronald Reagan in making their comparison of him to Romney.  There is no comparison.  Reagan’s personality and ability to connect with the average person is unparalled, and perhaps only Barack Obama and Bill Clinton approach his charisma.  And they will both be center-stage next week at the Democrat convention making mince-meat of Romney.

Romney is not Ronald Reagan, by personality or policy.  But he is more than a little like Alf Landon, the GOP “whiz-kid” from Kansas (and Kansas Governor) whom Republicans put up against a one-term incumbent Democrat President under very similar economic times in 1936.  That Democrat was Franklin Roosevelt, who followed a conservative Republican named Herbert Hoover.  Hoover was blamed for harming the national economy and causing the Great Depression during his one term.  Roosevelt beat Hoover in part by blaming him for the bad economy and promising he would aggressively attack unemployment with massive government spending projects.   (Are you seeing the parallels yet?)

But by the 1936 election, things weren’t getting that much better.  Unemployment was an amazing 16.9%.  Roosevelt was criticised by the GOP for instigating socialistic programs in his New Deal platform.  So they turned to Governor Landon as the man to beat Roosevelt.

Landon was a banker and oilman, a wealthy and successful businessman who turned to politics and was elected Governor.  A Methodist, he was known as a fiscal conservative who was not so strongly conservative on social issues and even supported some aspects of Roosevelt’s New Deal.  But Labor unions hated Landon.  Landon won the GOP nomination on the first ballot.  (Still seeing the parallels?)

Landon proved to be an ineffective campaigner who left the development of his message against Roosevelt to political professionals.  The GOP lost the black vote en masse to Roosevelt in this election, and Roosevelt won a hugely lopsided victory across the country despite double-digit unemployment.  Landon simply could not connect well with the average voter, and even in bad economic times, the country decided to turn to what they knew in Roosevelt, rather than the unknown of a wealthy GOP Governor despised by labor unions.

The Electoral College map heavily favors Barack Obama, even with Romney winning 27 or 28 states in the election.  The key swing state of Florida is absolutely necessary for Romney to have a chance to win the election.  However, Obama could lose Florida and still have plenty of options left to win.  And Obama will add credibility on election night building big majorities in California, Illinois and New York.  Next week at the Democrat Convention, Obama can be expected to get the election bounce he needs to lead the race into November, and such a similar bounce likely will elude Romney this week.

In his book, “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972”, author Hunter S. Thompson famously stated that the Democrats putting George McGovern up against Richard Nixon was “like sending a three-toeed sloth in to fight a wolverine.”  Mitt Romney is no three-toeed sloth, but Barack Obama and his Chicago political machine are definitely wolverines.  And, sadly in my opinion, as to the most apt historical comparson for Mitt Romney, the tea leaves seem to be rating his campaign and inability to get a clear lead at this stage, much more like Alf Landon than Ronald Reagan.  Take that, GOP pundits.