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I nearly laughed out loud when Romney sidekick Paul Ryan said this weekend, "We've had some missteps, but at the end of the day the choice is really clear." Acknowledging missteps is a useful persuasive tactic---that is, leading with a "negative" sometimes enhances credibility. But Ryan's acknowledgment that this election is now a choice, not just a referendum, is a huge error and joyously so. The Romney crew are now playing on Obama's turf. The irony is that Romney's initial plan to make the election a referendum on Obama probably ended the moment he picked Ryan as a running mate, making the election not about a sluggish economy but about vouchers, vaginas and vehicles---a field of "play" on which Obama is winning.
As a supposedly smart business guy Romney apparently missed a few chapters on salesmanship including practices having their roots in a 1937 book by Elmer Wheeler. In effect, never ask "If" but always ask "Which"---hence, "one egg or two?", "large or small coke?" or perhaps a higher payoff gambit---"your place or mine?" Romney never put up a factual or even logical choice for voters---one that kept its focus. Now his "vision" is not much more than a mixed bag of conflicting positions being thrown at the master of the long game---"I saved Detroit, I won't let them transform Medicare into a voucher program and I will protect women's rights."
Apparently, the question, "Do you wanna vote for me cause Obama failed" is the mark of an amateur.
Wheeler's book, "Tested Sentences that Sell" was a staple almost before Don Draper was born. "One egg or two?" was a phrase developed by Wheeler for his client, Abraham and Straus, the N.Y department store chain which finally met its demise in 1985 when Macys bought it from Federated and splintered it to death. Some of us are old enough to remember the soda fountain and lunch counters of down town department stores and the special treat of a malted milk---the object of the egg selling campaign---"one or two eggs in your malted milk, sir?" Sales of eggs at the counter skyrocketed.
Sales of Romney/Ryan are static, if not declining. Ryan can't even explain the Romney tax plan---well, he could if there were enough time.
From a corporate tycoon's perspective and for the average citizen I find it astounding that Romney's bad handling of his own campaign---both salesmanship and organization---does not in itself disqualify him to be head of the world's largest economy. Would a turn-around guy be worth his salt if he couldn't come into an institution---for example, one of our two major political parties---and meld it into a coherent organization with a clear mission statement, definable policies and concrete proposals? Isn't that what a competent CEO does? Instead Romney has run a behind-the-curve campaign, picked a VP candidate who puts him on the weakest turf possible in a general election, and even failed to inspire his own Republican base.
Romney can't sell. Before selling technique even becomes relevant the absolute first requirement for any salesman is empathy. Romney annoys people from the outset. Country club one-up humor doesn't translate well out here in the hinterland. He doesn't even comprehend the basics of selling---notice that in his direct-to-the-camera ad referring to his care for the poor and the middle class he says he has empathy for them. Obama on the other hand says, "If I could come into your living room and talk to you."
I don't know if Romney drinks malted milks (this is making me want to hop a plane for the big Apple). "One egg or two" might have been a good question for Romney if he were Rocky. Or it might have been a relevant question if we were discussing school lunch nutrition (I figure a malted milk with two eggs is a lot better than a super sized coke) or if we were discussing foreign policy---what happens when the average Chinese person upgrades from one egg to two for breakfast and the regime needs more land? Or, how many rotten eggs will we tolerate in Iran?
The truth is that we don't know enough about where Romney stands on any given day to pop a good forced-choice question. But in an effort to enlighten others before they cast their vote I'll venture a question---along the thought of that sunny day when Romney sat down at an ordinary picnic table with some average folks who placed before him on paper plates cookies made on his behalf by a local baker:
"Mitt, do you want a chocolate chip cookie, or a brownie?"
"Where'd you come up with these? They look like they came from a 7/11."
Well, the forced choice question doesn't work one hundred percent of the time.
But by the way, should I bring over Chinese tonight or would you like your favorite linguini with that fabulous puttanesca sauce?