Romney’s frequent challenge is the clumsy literalism of his messaging. Faced with broad suspicion among Latino voters, Romney recently explained in Middleton, Wis.: “We’re going to have to make sure that, as we speak to Hispanic voters, that we say, ‘We’re not anti-immigrant.’ ” A better approach would be actually to speak to Hispanic voters instead of commenting, as an observer, on his own strategy. At the same Middleton event, Romney said, “We have work to do to make sure we take our message to the women of America.” Taking that message to women does not consist of repeatedly mentioning the word “women.” And it certainly does not require the transformation of religious institutions into administrative divisions of the state in the name of women’s rights.
Mainly, women and independents want some reassurance that Republicans give a damn about someone other than Republican primary voters. It is not a high bar. But Romney needs to start somewhere — to pick an issue of justice and equity that he cares about deeply. It could be lowering an unemployment rate that is now more than 40 percent among African American teenagers. Or the improvement of high school dropout factories attended by 38 percent of black students and 33 percent of Latino students in America. There are plenty of sound conservative and free-market reforms that can be applied to improving the lives of the vulnerable.
A successful presidential candidate must have a compelling economic message. But he must also be able to stand before the nation and say: “I will serve all American citizens, whether they support me or not. My conscience, my faith, my view of America requires it. It hurts us all when any are hopeless.”