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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Early advice for each party's presidential candidate

Published: Sunday, April 8 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Mitt Romney has essentially locked up the GOP presidential nomination and both Romney and President Barack Obama are moving into general election mode, targeting each other. It's going to be a nasty, negative, billion dollar-plus campaign. Here is some early advice to each party's candidate.

Mitt Romney

Pignanelli: "Did you know that Mitt Romney's real name is Willard? Well, thank goodness he had the good sense to change it to 'Mitt.' That's so much more accessible than Will." — Jay Leno

Hundreds of political commentators have analyzed Romney's problems. Many refer to the famous story about the West Virginia mourner, who wept as the FDR funeral cortege passed. In response to a reporter's question "Did you know him?" the man in overalls stated, "No, but he knew me." Although FDR was wealthy, millions believed he understood them. Mitt Romney cannot make that claim.

Romney tries too hard at the "common man" persona. Americans do not expect that of him. They just want someone who understands their fears and dreams.

Instead of running for president of his fraternity (dwelling on his resume and the important friends), he must articulate the vision of a Romney administration and its impact upon Americans — especially proposals to help small business owners and employees of struggling industries. Romney is not a bigot, but primary politics forced him into tough positions on undocumented workers. He will need the Latino vote, so he must claw back the remarks.

I urge Romney to be "more Mormon." LDS church members may not exhibit emotion in daily activities — especially when compared to this Italian — but they are passionate about their faith. This zeal is addictive and attractive. Romney should replicate the enthusiasm for his LDS faith and apply it to his policies and vision for America.

Webb: 1. Sharply contrast your philosophy of government with Obama's. They are vastly different. Obama believes that every problem in society has a big-government solution. His track record is to throw more money, more regulation, more government at every problem. He believes government should take care of every citizen from cradle to grave. This approach is unsustainable and is bankrupting the country. Worse, it diminishes freedom. Recite examples. Use stories and anecdotes. List the numerous expensive government programs Obama has imposed on Americans. Showcase, by contrast, your philosophy of limited government, low taxes, free enterprise and maximum personal freedom. Acknowledge that government has important, but limited, roles to play in society.

2. Play off Obama's State of the Union "built to last" theme. Out-of-control entitlements are not built to last. The surging federal deficit does not foster an economy built to last. At stake is the future of our children and grandchildren.

3. Make substantive proposals. The Paul Ryan budget is a great start. Don't shy away from the tough issues, like entitlements, as Obama has done. Voters are adults and they understand that spending is out of control, that entitlements are unsustainable and that fiscal discipline is necessary. They want realistic proposals that, over a reasonable period of time, without immediate draconian cuts, place the country on a fiscally sustainable course. You have to make the case with clear examples and understandable language.

4. Enlist state and local leaders as partners in fixing the country's problems. All wisdom doesn't emanate from Washington. The federal government has grown too big, is too expensive and is clearly unmanageable. It has lost the trust of citizens. Hold a summit with state and local leaders and emerge with an agenda outlining how necessary services can be delivered to citizens at the local level at less cost than federal programs.

5. Don't make it personal. Obama is personally likeable. Respect the office of the president. Don't cross the line into personal attacks.

Barack Obama

Pignanelli: "President Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize because the committee wanted to recognize the president's fine work in bringing peace to a black professor and a white cop through the strategic use of beer." — Jay Leno

Obama should set aside his academic experience (law professors usually just pontificate on legal philosophies) and return to his roots as a "community organizer." Despite the snarky comments, successful community organizers possess important abilities. Every day, they must wade into the problems of constituents, recruit support from the surrounding business community, deal with crime and law enforcement, establish a strategy to implement vision, mediate among turf-protecting staff and utilize entrepreneurial skills in marketing and public relations — all on a balanced budget.

As with Romney, Obama can be aloof. But Americans like the president as a person — he is a decent, dignified, supportive father and husband. He needs to ramp up his "community organizer" skills to strengthen his bond with the country, and show that his vision will resolve our fears.

Webb: You inherited a tough situation coming into office. Describe how things are modestly improving and what you will do in a second term to increase economic momentum. You have a difficult record to run on, so you will have to bash Republicans, big oil and rich people, and argue that things would be even worse with Republicans in charge.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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