Thursday, April 05, 2012

Geek Vs. Dork

The most fundamental mistake one can make in politics is pretending to be someone you're not. Mitt Romney has struggled with this throughout his two presidential campaigns, from his classic rendition of "Who Let The Dogs Out" to his relating more to NASCAR owners than NASCAR fans.

Romney must on some level realize that who he really is has some negatives. In the primary season, the reality of his efforts to govern Massachusetts with a solidly Democratic legislature were anathema to the fundamentalist, tea party mood of the Republican base. And as he shakes the Etch-A-Sketch for the general, his framework is still a corporate head-chopper of great inherited wealth.

So how do you work with that? Mark Halperin writes (emphasis added):
Romney's unending string of gaffes that reinforce his image as someone who is hopelessly out of touch with the real lives of real people."

"Romney's prospects rely on two tracks: abandoning the effort to be likable and settling instead for awkwardly endearing (though his public image is a long way off from that) and using a series of upcoming framing speeches to condemn the Obama economic record.
In other words, ROmney is trying to re-position himself on the nerdiness spectrum. Allow me to prove that I belong on this spectrum, too, by using a Venn diagram.

Romney clearly belongs in the social ineptitude part of the diagram, and that image may be permanently cemented. And the perception that he will say or do anything to get elected also lands him in the obsession circle. Thus, Romney is defined as a dork. If he is able to make the social ineptitude somehow endearing, he may be able to land on nerd by fall. (Note that George W. Bush was outside all three circles and beating these guys up in gym class.)

Barack Obama, in contast, is clearly a guy comfortable with who he is.

He's been called a Vulcan more than once, and here is is living long and prospering with Classic Trek actress Nichelle Nichols. The intelligence-obsession combo clearly lands the president in the Geek Zone of our Venn Diagram.

But the geek personality isn't as important as the fact that Obama embraces it rather than denying it. Even when Obama's policy negatives have climbed, polls have showed that his personal popularity has largely endured, outside the core of haters. That genuineness and authenticity that he projects is one of the keys. And in the fall, genuine vs. phony matters more than geek vs. dork.

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