Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

October 23, 2012

Romney, the 'great salesman'

How it must gall President Barack Obama's re-election team to try to talk down Mitt Romney by talking up his talent. "He is a great salesman," top Obama strategist David Axelrod said on "Fox News Sunday." "That is what he did as a professional; he is very good at it."

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs went further, calling Romney's first debate "a masterful, masterful performance," among other things. If Romney ever needs a critic's blurb to put on his promotional materials, he could do worse than "Robert Gibbs: Magical and theatrical ..." Gibbs makes it sound like in the first debate Romney was a combination of Laurence Olivier in "Hamlet" and Fred Astaire in "Top Hat."

There is a delicious irony in Obama's aides complaining of someone else's superior salesmanship. Do they have no self-awareness? They might want to reacquaint themselves with how Barack Obama became president. It wasn't his long record of legislative achievement. It wasn't his executive experience. It wasn't his fine-grained agenda. It was a winning smile, a great narrative, and a slogan that fit the temper of the moment: "Hope and change." Not to mention a determined effort to obscure and sand away the rough edges of his leftism. It was, in short, a great sales job.

For the Obama campaign to turn around and complain that Mitt Romney is just too persuasive is like the late, great TV pitchman Billy Mays warning that the other guy is better at peddling OxiClean. There is a Willy Loman-esque autumnal feel to the Obama team's plaint, which has been picked up by the president himself. When Loman's touch deserted him, he was left a wreck - "the end of a man when his dream world is shattered," in the words of a critic.

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