Obama’s Voice, Romney’s Mystery

Photograph by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Voting at Carleton Middle School on Nov. 6, 2012 in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Julianna Goldman and Lisa Lerer have traveled with President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney through a long and hard-fought campaign. At campaign’s end, the two Bloomberg reporters have tales to tell about the candidates and a long road:

President Barack Obama was losing his voice, Goldman reports today, and for him that was a good sign.

“Even though my voice is getting kind of hoarse, I’ve still got a spring in my step,” Obama said in Cleveland at the end of a 48-hour marathon campaign swing late last month. “We’re fighting for the future. I’ve come to Ohio today to ask you for your vote.”

It was during that two-day, multi-battleground state sprint when, for the first time, the president showed he was willing to fight for his re-election. He had approached much of the campaign against Republican Mitt Romney with a sense of near- contempt for his opponent as though he could defeat him without much struggle, a posture that verged on arrogance.

At no point was that more vivid than during the first debate, when the president risked losing a second term with a somnolent 90-minute performance that left his backers dumbstruck and gave Romney’s supporters the energy they’d been lacking. After that night, aides said, Obama was smacked in the face with the potential for loss and it jolted him from his stasis.

A hoarse voice has often been the byproduct of his struggle for political survival. It showed in 2008 when he clinched the Iowa caucuses and again when he won enough delegates in the North Carolina and Indiana primaries to cement the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination

Twenty-four hours before Election Day, Lerer reports today,  the man at the front of the plane remained a mystery.

“I need your vote. I need your work,” Mitt Romney implored enthusiastic supporters from Florida to New Hampshire. “Walk with me. Walk with me together,” he said, while standing perfectly straight, an eye on the teleprompter, staying precisely on script.

Yet, with more than a decade of national exposure, hundreds of thousands of ads and life without private moments, Romney has remained largely inscrutable. To voters, the journalists traveling with him for almost two years and even some of his staff, the Republican nominee has revealed little beyond his campaign-crafted images as a business technocrat and family man. Should he lose his bid for the White House tonight, friends and supporters say, that opacity may be among the reasons.

In another election season, Romney’s reserve may have been more of a drag. The 2012 race is as much a referendum on President Barack Obama and a troubled economy as it is a choice for Romney. Aides say their campaign’s message is as much about the moment as it is the man.

 

 

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