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Romney's Problem: His Brand Story Is Too Complicated For Voters

Posted by: David Kiley on March 15, 2007


It’s hard to believe that the 2008 Presidential campaign is this hot this early. But here we are. One of the most interesting parts of the process is watching people with complicated brand stories try to get their stories on track.

This takes me to GOP candidate Mitt Romney. It is clear that the conservative wing of the GOP is trying to make Romney their choice. He has Reaganesque looks. He, for now, is pro-gun, anti-abortion and anti gay marriage. Most of the discussion around Romney has centered on the fact that he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He is a mormon. The big question: Will 51% of Americans vote a mormon into the White House?

Here is Romney’s real problem. He is waaaaaaaaaaaay too complicated for American voters. Conservative voters are trying to spin his late-found positions on abortion (he used to be pro-choice) gay marriage (he used to be for civil unions) and guns (he used to be pro gun laws but last year joined the NRA) as the equivalent of conversion. In other words, he isn’t a flip-flopper to conservatives, he’s been saved.

As a mormon, Romney has been trying to simplify the story by saying he is simply a person of faith, and that’s what most people want in a President.

Though today’s Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints doesn’t advocate in any way the polygamy that characterized the early church, and which is still practiced by a small splinter sect of the church, the impression most have of Mormonism is that most mormon men have wives hidden away somewhere. The success of the HBO series Big Love, which chronicles a polygamist Mormon family won’t help Romney straighten the picture.

If Romney was simply a flip flopper on the most volatile social issues of the day, he would have a tough slog as the video clips of his previous positions—180-degrees away from his positions today—are already on His joining the NRA just last year is right up there with Newt Gingrich’s confession of an extra-marital affair while he was leading the impeachment charge against Bill Clinton. It’s last minute clean-up…like throwing the dirty magazines under the couch cushions before Mom’s prayer group comes through the door.

But you take all that transparent position switching (his old positions were fine for running for Massachusettes Governor but not for President)and add the complexity of Mormonism on top of that!!That’s a tall order to expect the electorate to take all that in. It’s a bit like McDonald’s trying to stand for childhood nutrition and fitness, or GM trying to advertise that it haas the most fuel efficient gas guzzlers on the market.

Remember George W. Bush famously saying that he “didn’t do nuance.” Voters don’t like too much complexity in a candidate. They don’t want to have to figure out too much. They want it plain. They want the President’s story simple enough to read on the side of a soda can. Romney’s got a problem.

Reader Comments

Bob Byrne

March 19, 2007 7:38 PM

I was surprised to find that Boeing was not in the top 50. Can you tell me how they were graded?

Bill Borders

March 21, 2007 10:27 AM

The article about american a comment from a Jason Vines,Chrysler spokesman. It should be noted it is "Daimler"-Chrysler;which is German owned and should not be considered part of The Big 3. U.S.Now only has The Big 2.

Debra Crowder

March 26, 2007 2:18 PM

I found David Kiley's article on Mitt Romney to be rather callous. He could at least have had the common courtesy of spelling mormon with a capital M.

John M

April 6, 2007 12:02 PM

Big Love doesn't chronicle a Mormon family; it chronicles an unaffiliated Polygamist group out of Southern Utah that is in no way affiliated with the Mormon faith which banned the practice in 1890... I appreciate that you mention this in the story but to then so incorrectly use mention of this show in the same paragraph is foolish.


August 21, 2007 5:14 PM

Don't take granted you are smarter than the voters, I believe they understand Romney better than you, you better shut up. By the way to be a president no need simple or complicated, the most important is if he is good enough to lead the United States going further on the right track and doing outstanding in the world as it used to be. God bless America.

Eden Carroll-Weiss

October 15, 2007 9:16 PM

What is sad is I am getting used to the denigrating remarks about candidates. Only on the Internet would people slander decent people and try to hurt their reputations. Well not really the last few years I have seen it in print also. Romney is a decent clean cut guy who is honest. Some accused him of flip-flopping. NO. He has grown and changed through the years as a Christian and as a man. It is called growing up. I applaud those changes. He was a great governor. He is a great administrator. He is not a socialist like Hillary. That goes a long way for me. Hillary has had books written about her and her husbands scandals. Do Americans really want to take a chance on the likes of her. She swears like a longshoreman.

Gordon Hill

October 20, 2007 10:53 PM

I worked it Salt Lake City when Romney was running the Olympics and he was the most secretive manager ever. It's true you don't have to lie if everything is a secret.
Romney is a normal rethuglican, he'll drop his pants and bend over for special interest groups. Fortunately, he has a lot of negatives and I doubt he'll be elected. I do have to admit one thing, he is the prettyist candidate.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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