(Image courtesy of Reuters)
After all the political pundits, pollsters and prognosticators are done eating crow, having predicted a Romney win (yes…I called it back in May), it will become self-evident that what it really came down to was two of the most fundamental elements of branding - strategy and authenticity.
By veering so far to the right during the primaries in order to appear as something that he wasn’t, Governor Mitt Romney became less authentic and appeared like a sycophant. Indeed, stretching like Gumby around a host of issues, only hurt him later as he had to bend all the way back to the middle in order to win the general election and again appear like the moderate he was originally.
Because he was the Governor of Massachusetts and led that State as a moderate, branded as one, enacting its own version of healthcare reform - in order to win the Presidency, he would have needed to get to the very place where he had been when he began.
There will be many today who say that in order for him to have won the Republican nomination, he needed to sew up the rightwing, conservative base and therefore he had to shift many of his previous positions. The problem with doing that, as we just saw, is that it goes against the very essence of trust. And without trust, it’s impossible to win, not only elections – but, well, anything.
Unfortunately, this scenario appears to have been necessary for Romney to get the nomination. If so, it’s a larger, inherent issue for the GOP, who have now put forward two moderates in the past two elections and been defeated both times. Arguments will ensue over the future of the Party with some saying, “We need to nominate a true conservative.” while others will espouse, “We need to become more moderate if we plan to win a general election.”
The problem with both of these scenarios is they are both half right. A true conservative may sew up the nomination, but appear too extreme in a general (see Barry Goldwater.) Likewise, a moderate won’t pass the sniff test during the primaries. But what they are both missing is, whoever the nominee is, they have to be authentic to be believed. Coca-cola is the world’s most powerful brand because it stands for authenticity: it’s “The Real Thing.” When it veered away from that and tried to change as “New Coke” it was soundly rejected and went down in history as one of the worst marketing flubs of all time.
Strong politicians are like strong brands. They stand for something they believe in. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about.