Americans love the tough guy, the guy who kicks butt and takes names, who mops the floor with his opponents, who has the quick one-liners that can shut a conversation down.
It’s why we like Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, action flicks with memorable lines and lots of action. It’s why we love James Bond, the Matrix series and even Star Wars.
It’s why Mitt Romney “won” the debate against Barack Obama, and why many Americans view the former Massachusetts governor as a better leader, even if they don’t agree with his policies.
A Quinnippiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll, showed likely voters in Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin – considered three battleground states – said Romney had gained strength in leadership skills.
“About two-thirds of the voters in each state said Mr. Romney has strong leadership qualities, more than said the same of the president,” The Times reported Thursday on the poll’s results.
Interestingly enough, though, the same poll found voters believed Obama had done a better job of outlining his specific plans for the next four years and that the president cared more about the needs and problems of people like the voters.
Romney scored higher on addressing the economy and the deficit, but Obama was rated higher on his plan to help the middle class.
What has helped Obama in the midst of this bounce for Romney is that the unemployment rate in September fell below 8 percent for the first time since he took office and nonstop growth – although at varying rates – in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since January of 2010.
So the facts suggest Obama is doing better because the poll showed little movement in what likely voters say they will do, although Romney supporters now feel better about their candidate.
It’s amazing when you think about the recent flip-flops in the Republican’s campaign.
In running for the GOP nomination, Romney vowed to repeal Obamacare, cut entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare and eliminate many current, popular tax deductions in order to reduce the deficit and offset tax cuts, which include retaining the Bush tax cuts and a 20 percent across-the-board cut for all Americans.
But Romney not only has not announced plans to cut any of the 10 largest individual tax deductions that total $842 billion per year, he has said in recent campaign stops and network TV interviews he would retain aspects of Obamacare, not touch Social Security or Medicare for current retirees or those nearing retirement, nor eliminate the popular mortgage interest or charitable donation deductions or cut jobs training programs.
He’s betting that swagger over substance will win.
When Ronald Reagan urged Americans to stay the course and return him to office even though he had run the economy into a ditch with his tax cuts, voters sent him back to the White House, where he raised taxes – and somehow people remember him for cutting taxes.
He talked a good game.
Voters applauded George W. Bush for being decisive, even when they weren’t sure invading Iraq was a good idea. They rallied around the president, who suggested it was dangerous to switch leaders in the middle of the war and said his policies ultimately would change the Middle East to a pro-democracy region and gain the U.S. new friends and allies.
The U.S. led a coalition of forces into Iraq, while still fighting in Afghanistan, and Bush ran both wars off the books, not including the costs in his annual budget, but seeking funds through supplemental budget approval from Congress.
Whenever he was challenged, Bush and his surrogates questioned opponents’ patriotism and talked tough about holding the line against the nation’s enemies.
Now Romney has gone from tough-talking conservative, to tough-talking moderate and hoping voters – including his right-wing base – will go for the okey doke.
Gary Marx, executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a former Romney adviser on conservative issues, said Romney is merely “reorienting himself for a general election audience,” The Times reported.
“He is being intentional about reaching out to a broader cross-section of voters on these issues,” Marx said. “He is delivering multiple messages to different groups. That is a sophisticated campaign at work late in the game.”
Or is Romney hoping that if he talks loudly enough, looks tough enough and has a better trash-talk game than Obama that people won’t look too closely behind the curtain?
Lest Obama supporters get really nervous, however, there is still good news out there for the president.
According to David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, "the odds are still 2-1 for Obama (vs. 3-1 before the debate). The polls today [Thursday] are good for the president and first-time claims for unemployment fell 30,000 last week."
So voters can go for the "tough guy" with movie star looks, or they can go for the real thing.