You know that “charisma” stuff I go on about all the time on here?  The quality that is more important than any other to winning elections?

Romney doesn’t have it.

I know, that’s not news.  But it never ceases to amaze me how singularly lacking he is in this quality.

I was listening to a snippet of some speech of his on the radio.  It bored me.  That’s a bad sign for him; if he were a half-way charismatic fellow, he’d have had me outraged.  All the charismatic people on the Republican side can make do that.  But Romney is just dull.

You don’t even have to consider the content of their speeches–and Heaven knows, too many voters probably don’t–to see the difference.  Obama sounds passionate and fired up when he speaks, whereas Romney’s voice sort of cracks whenever he tries to raise his voice to a powerful crescendo.

Sure, tons of people will vote for Romney because they hate Obama.  People are either going to vote for Obama or against him, but nobody is going to vote for Mitt Romney.  He is just hoping that enough people will hate the incumbent to vote him in.  That was the strategy for the last uncharismatic guy from Massachusetts, too.

And now there are rumors that his campaign plans to “avoid John McCain’s mistake”–to wit, make a dull pick, without any charisma, the opposite of Sarah Palin.  This is also a terrible idea, though speaking as one who hopes Romney does not get elected, it pleases me greatly.

I suspect that, in the end, Palin helped McCain’s 2008 campaign.  Yes, you read that right.  It is true that she made a fool of herself in her interviews, but what of that?   The Republican base does not believe anything in the mainstream press, and consequently explained that away as “media bias”.

You say: “but she alienated the moderates”.  No, she didn’t.  The moderates were already alienated, because they were going to vote for Obama no matter what.  No one except a die-hard Republican was going to vote for John McCain, and even they didn’t like him much.  Palin served to energize the only group which would even consider voting for John McCain.  From a purely strategic point of view, she was a good pick.  A rotten candidate, but a good pick.  Curious how that can happen.

Anyway, if the Romney people do decide to double down on dullness, I think it will signify that the people running his campaign are basically counting on a massive economic disaster to make Obama unpopular.  And I suppose that could happen.  Kind of sad, though, if your entire campaign depends on something like that.

John Nance Garner once said the Vice-Presidency was “not worth a bucket of warm spit. “  (Some say he mentioned a different liquid.) Well, clearly Tea-Partiers disagree with him. I already blogged about the possibility of Representative Allen West being Romney’s V.P. and today I saw this NPR story which quotes Tea Partier Bill Miller as saying: “At this point, the only thing [Romney] can possibly do is who he picks for V.P.”

Well, the V.P. slot has been getting more attention lately. Why, there’s even a new HBO series about it. Shows you what John Nance Garner knew.

I assume Romney plans to follow this Miller’s advice, and pick a Vice-President who will excite the base. This is a good plan because it will make appeal more to the Tea-Party crowd without having to hand any actual power to an extreme conservative. Though, as John McCain discovered, this method is not altogether foolproof.

Besides, it’s not that the Vice-President has no power; if the Veep is clever enough, the position can certainly be a powerful one. Dick Cheney practically revolutionized the position, and I suspect that his actions in office has made subsequent Presidential candidates be much more cautious about who they select for the role. But there’s no denying Cheney was one of the most powerful Vice-Presidents ever.

So, the question is: will Romney go for an insider in the mold of Cheney or an exciting figure in the mold of Palin?

Yet more mistakes by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. She’s admitted to not reading the Arizona immigration bill, but nevertheless has gone ahead and criticized it. She also cut funding for security for New York’s mass-transit system and then lied about it.

Napolitano has never struck me as an especially competent individual. I strongly feel that she botched the response to the Christmas day attempted bombing–though it was largely merely a PR failure on her part, it suggests a rather high degree of incompetence, and if it were not for extremely good fortune on that day, the consequences of DHS stupidity could have been much more severe.

More than anything–and maybe we can chalk this up to anti-charisma–Napolitano has displayed a rather stunning level of tone-deafness. I’ll tell you up front: I haven’t read the Arizona immigration bill either;  but I still am more than qualified to pass judgment on it. But Napolitano was easily lured into saying something that made her sound less confident and more like a clueless hack–and by John McCain, no less!

Here’s what I’d have said:

 “I am familiar with the law to the extent that I recognize the potential exists for it to be abused for the purpose of infringing upon the rights of citizens.” 

Napolitano’s anti-charisma exacerbates all of her mistakes, of course, but it’s getting harder and harder to see what actual skills she possesses that make her worth the PR headaches she creates.

Palin will be campaigning today to help McCain in his primary battle with J.D. Hayworth.

Let’s go over this again: having a charismatic person campaign for you does not work. Her followers–the Tea Party crowd–will not like McCain better for it. This seems strange, I know, but it is what past experiences tell us.

I think it’s largely because charisma involves projection of one’s own ideas onto the charismatic person. So, even though a lot of the Tea Party crowd likes Palin, they will project their own liking for Hayworth onto her, and rationalize that she was only campaigning for McCain out of gratitude for him. So, the bottom line is that they’ll vote for Hayworth and think no less of Palin.

McCain is getting Sarah Palin to help him out  in his campaign for reelection. McCain,we know, has no charisma, but neither does his opponent, J.D. Hayworth. Could Palin’s charisma be a factor in the Maverick’s favor?

I doubt it. Charisma doesn’t seem to be transferable. I wrote back in January: “Oddly, however, you can’t lend your charisma to someone else by means of an endorsement. Obama’s campaigning for Creigh Deeds is proof of this. Having someone charismatic testify on your behalf just… doesn’t seem to work.”

Add Obama’s endorsement of Martha Coakley to the list of examples showing this doesn’t work.