In my interview with Mitt Romney yesterday, I questioned whether his message of innovation through the study of data will be powerful enough to pull him ahead of his two well-known and widely respected rivals, Mayor Giuliani and Senator McCain. I didn’t mean to minimize Romney’s impressive credentials as an innovator and voracious consumer of relevant information. Only a few qualtiies matter more in a leader. Moreover, this sort of image is a a great one for a front-runner to have. But lesser known candidates often need more dynamic, insurgent-style themes to emerge from the pack.
Romney cited Bill Clinton as someone who emerged from the pack. And, oddly enough, there are similarities between the two. Though Clinton’s campaign clearly had a down-home, semi-populist feel to it, much of his appeal probably stemmed from his reputation as a policy wonk and quick study. It turned out that, as good as he may have been at analyzing public policy questions, Clinton did not care that much about them. But we didn’t know this at the time.
The biggest difference between Clinton’s early status as a candidate and Romney’s is that Clinton faced a weak field. By contrast, Romney must contend with a pair of national heroes. Though Paul Tsongas was in some respects an admirable candidate (and indeed was highly thought of by Romney), he was no Rudy Giuliani or John McCain.
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