Newsweek cover story: Mitt Romney is too 'conscientious,' quality may cost him election.
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News archives
Newsweek's new cover story on former Massachusetts's Gov. Mitt Romney says the GOP presidential hopeful has one problem: he's too "conscientious."
"In fact," the article's author, Andrew Romano, writes, "it is the only trait of (Romney's) that qualifies as clinically 'prominent.'"
Romano's assessment is based off of research performed by Aubrey Immelman of St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., an expert on the electoral effects of candidates' personalities.
Immelman performs studies in which he uncovers "journalistic evidence for (or against) about 40 of … 170 traits, which he then groups into broader patterns, like extroversion, that are weighted to reflect the results of past elections. (Clinton won twice as an extrovert, for example, so extroversion is worth a lot of points.) When combined, these categorical tallies produce a single score: the Personal Electability Index (PEI) … candidates with low PEI scores almost never get elected. Romney's score is a six, which is abysmal. Barack Obama, by comparison, earned a 28, and even failed candidates such as Hillary Clinton and John McCain have cleared 20 (23 and 26, respectively)."
The reason for Romney's low score, according to Immelman: today's electorate rejects candidates who are considered "conscientious" or in other words "proper, diligent, detail-oriented and super-rational."
According to the piece this wasn't always the case — "Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson, and even James Madison won the White House because (not in spite) of their most Romneyesque qualities: politeness, caution, restraint, systematic thinking, a sense of duty and so on," writes Romano. "But while earlier eras rewarded calculation — until the mid–20th century, public persuasion mattered less than methodical behind-the-scenes maneuvering — the 24/7 news cycle forces candidates to connect."
Romney's campaign has been striving hard to make Romney more palatable to modern-day voters. Stuart Stevens, "the man in charge of reshaping Mitt Romney's image," according to a NY Times profile of Stevens, he has by most accounts been doing a decent job.
"Mr. Stevens has brought to the Romney team a laid-back, hang-loose, though intense, vibe," writes Ashley Parker in her profile of Stevens in the Times. "… Whereas Mr. Romney is a linear thinker who tends to home in on the details, Mr. Stevens is a creative, big-picture person who tries to focus on winning the election rather than simply winning the day."
Stevens' strategy has Romney winning the GOP debates, leading by double-digits in the New Hampshire, and standing triumphant in Michigan where he won the recent GOP straw poll. Though he still trails Texas Gov. Rick Perry in national polling and still has, according to the Newsweek piece, trouble connecting to voters one on one, it appears as though Stevens is having some success working to assuage these problems.
Though "In a small group setting, particularly among similarly educated, successful individuals, he can charm and impress with (his) intellectual rigor," Romney's fellow colleague at Bain, Marc Wolpow, told Newsweek. "His challenge is that there are 300 million people in America. He seems to connect naturally with only a small handful of them." Only time will tell if he can win over the others.
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