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Romney wins minds, Gingrich hearts

world Updated: Jan 25, 2012 00:16 IST
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To hear former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney tell it, the problem with President Obama is that he’s incompetent.


Not a bad person. Just bad at his job. A new hire that didn’t work out.

“I think he’s a nice guy. I’m sure he loves the country and wants it to do well,” Romney told a crowd in New Hampshire earlier this month. “I just don’t think he understands the principles that make us who we are.’’

To hear former House speaker Newt Gingrich tell it, however, Obama is actually quite competent. But that’s the problem: Gingrich says Obama is a leftist “radical,” using his considerable political skills to undermine treasured American values.

He’s so good, Gingrich warns, that only another skilled politician can beat him. By which he means: me.

In their disparate portraits of Obama, the GOP’s two leading candidates have revealed something important about themselves.

Romney is trying to reach a general-election audience, including many people who voted for Obama in 2008 and still like him personally. So he casts the president as an honest mistake, a low performer who simply needs to be replaced.

Gingrich, by contrast, is aiming at a Republican primary electorate that never liked Obama much to begin with. So he portrays the president as the representative of a whole poisoned way of thinking: an adversary who needs to be not just defeated, but repudiated.

Saturday’s results in South Carolina — and Romney’s own recent shifts toward more belligerent language — seem to indicate that Gingrich’s approach might be working better now.

Romney’s dispassionate take on Obama had already helped open a window for a rival.

“Newt captures the heart,” Frank Luntz, the longtime GOP pollster said. “Romney captures the brain.”

The Washington Post

For additional content from The Washington Post, visit www.washingtonpost.com

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