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Politics 2012:

Mitt Romney: Today’s John Kerry?


Steve Marcus

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney answers questions from reporters after meeting with students at the UNLV Student Union Monday, May 16, 2011.

Sun, Jan 8, 2012 (2 a.m.)

Click to enlarge photo

John Kerry

Sun Coverage

The comparisons aren’t difficult to draw between U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who may be on his way to becoming the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

Here are the easy ones: They both held office in Massachusetts. They came from wealthy families, spent time at Harvard and generally had a privileged upbringing.

Then there are the political similarities: Both are considered lacking in interpersonal skills and are awkward campaigners. Both are attacked by rivals as “flip-flopping” on important issues. And both have perpetually camera-ready hair.

Beyond the personal and political similarities between the two men, the dynamics of the 2012 presidential election — at least from a 30,000-foot view — are similar to the 2004 race, as well: A reasonably popular incumbent president whose policies have at times alienated his base and antagonized the opposing party is heading into what likely will be a closely fought race that will be decided by a few electoral votes.

Now for the primary: In 2004, Democrats were desperate to find a Teflon-coated candidate who could easily oust a president they both hated and felt had a significant vulnerability. They flirted with ideological soul mates — Howard Dean, John Edwards — and begged others to enter the race — Hillary Clinton, Al Gore.

In the end, though, Democrats quickly settled on Kerry — he swept nearly all the early states and had the nomination locked up by Super Tuesday.

After all, in addition to the hair, he had a resume Democrats saw as tailor-made for the political atmosphere. He was a war hero who had the experience to be president in trying national security times. He was also a war protester, which appealed to a base deeply unhappy with President George W. Bush’s Iraq war (but in the end provided the attack fodder needed to seal his defeat. More on that later.)

Fast-forward to the ongoing Republican primary.

Members of the GOP are certain they can oust President Barack Obama if they find the right candidate. While Romney is pedaling along with establishment support, resources and organization, voters are still flirting with ideological soul mates — Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul — and they are longing for the could-have-beens — Jeb Bush, Chris Christie.

Romney is positioned to follow Kerry’s path of quickly wrapping up enough delegates to have the nomination by February.

After all, in addition to the hair, he has the resume that Republicans see as a good fit for the political atmosphere. He hasn’t spent a lifetime in political office. He has the business experience they see as key to turning around the economy and has built a reputation as a fix-it man.

So, if he does become the nominee, does he succumb to his weaknesses as Kerry did? Or does he have the strengths and skills needed to ward off what could be a similar playbook?

Kerry’s candidacy ultimately faltered under a barrage of ugly attack ads funded by a third-party group that went after his perceived strength: his record as a war hero.

Romney could be ripe for an attack on his strengths. His experience as a turnaround specialist at Bain Capital also resulted in some business failures and job losses. And third-party groups have already played a bigger role in this presidential election than 2004.

Romney’s supporters say that while it’s fun to draw comparisons, Romney is not Kerry.

Perhaps most significantly, this is Romney’s second bite at the apple. He gained valuable experience during his failed bid for the presidency four years ago that could make him less prone to the first-time stumbles that thwarted Kerry.

It’s unlikely we’ll see footage of Romney windsurfing on Lake Mead.

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Discussion: 18 comments so far…

  1. The last time I didn't hold my nose when voting for a candidate for President was in 1996 (when I voted a second time for Clinton.) I expect I'll need a full bottle of Scotch after (or even before) voting this year to kill the pain.

  2. Romney is admittedly a Massachusetts RINO with his business experience to recommend him. Romney has a chance because the President has a dismal record for economic decisions/performance despite the partisan padding of his record. Only an extremist party partisan would see either candidate as a proper answer to the woes the country finds itself in. Both seem to be nice guys and that is the best thing about either; the braying/trumpeting of their partisans propaganda aside. The openly boot-licking media do not help nor hurt the case for either.

  3. Jim,
    John Kerry's war record was genuine and you have fallen for typical conservative propaganda when you try to claim otherwise. Your judgement is bad.

  4. Jim Reid

    You are the joke of the day. Kerry was a fake here. That privileged kid at least signed up and served in a combat zone while bush junior was protecting Alabamas from the Communist hordes. You are right of course Obama's popularity is twice as high as bush junior has.

    And jimbo try clicking your heels three times.

  5. Jim Reid

    Nice try. The swift boat vets were completely discredited and you know that. even Bill o Reilly was skeptical of them. You Mr. Military clerk should know better then to denigrate another service member over political differences. It is less then honorable.

  6. Upon further review john kerry did sign the standard form 180

    Tell me Jimbo do you realize that you fit the profile of a pathological liar?

    #1 Jim Reid states women should not have the right to vote because they vote liberal. Then denies ever posting that comment.

    #2 Jim Reid states the elderly poor should not receive end of life care because it is to expensive. Then once again denies posting that.

    #3 john Kerry never signed standard form #180. Another lie. John Kerry did sign the form #180 releasing his military record.

    Nobody likes a liar.

  7. As I read the partisan comments from both sides I see at least four different John Kerry's depicted. Based solely upon the partisan comments above I can't decide if John Kerry is the reincarnation of Patton and Einstein and G. Washington or a completely mendacious weak kneed child of privilege without courage, intelligence, or patriotism.

    I also am persuaded the Swift Boaters were either complete fools, base cowards, and liars or the most heroic people since John Kerry single-handedly saved Vietnam from the Red peril. All these conclusions are as distorted as the partisan posts on the subject.

    I do not find any of the extreme arguments above persuasive and I doubt any thinking person would either.

  8. Kerry, Obama, Reid, Mitt Romney is just another of them. No matter who wins, we all lose. Romney was Obama before there was an Obama. Obama is turning out to be the black version of Bush.
    I hate to say it but I miss the good old days when Clinton was president. I did not like the man as a president. But he was far better than the present and our future choices.

  9. Jim Reid

    It is a good start admitting you were wrong about john Kerry signing his 180. He had published his whole military record on his website 5 weeks before the the political smear campain. Criticizing his political record is fine with me. But knowingly making false statements and denigrating his service record for political gains is as low as you can go.

  10. Jimmy could have used Google but,apparently, doesn't know how to:

    "The lack of any substantive new material about Kerry's military career in the documents raises the question of why Kerry refused for so long to waive privacy restrictions. An earlier release of the full record might have helped his campaign because it contains a number of reports lauding his service. Indeed, one of the first actions of the group that came to be known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was to call on Kerry to sign a privacy waiver and release all of his military and medical records.

    But Kerry refused, even though it turned out that the records included commendations from some of the same veterans who were criticizing him.

    On May 20, Kerry signed a document called Standard Form 180, authorizing the Navy to send an ''undeleted" copy of his ''complete military service record and medical record" to the Globe. Asked why he delayed signing the form for so long, Kerry said in a written response: ''The call for me to sign a 180 form came from the same partisan operatives who were lying about my record on a daily basis on the Web and in the right-wing media. Even though the media was discrediting them, they continued to lie. I felt strongly that we shouldn't kowtow to them and their attempts to drag their lies out."

    Many of the records contain praise for Kerry's service. For example, the documents quote Kerry's former commanding officers as saying he is ''one of the finest young officers with whom I have served;" is ''the acknowledged leader of his peer group;" and is ''highly recommended for promotion.""