Kay M. Osborne, Guest Columnist
Mitt Romney's opening salvo made one thing clear last Tuesday night: His mission is to further establish what he has come to regard as his natural superiority over the United States President Barack Obama. After all, Mr Romney's vast array of image-perfect poses during the first 2012 presidential debate may have scored big, especially among Republican supporters.
Before the earlier debate that changed his trajectory, national polls had Mr Romney trailing President Obama. The trouble with Mr Romney's glib schema is that he failed to consider President Obama's awesome capacity to recall before plunging headlong into newly rehearsed versions of spiels with transcripts.
During the first debate, Mr Romney wagered on his smooth-as-glass, self-adjustable personality, and on the now infamous 'sketchy deal' to create the favourable impression he felt he needed to change his fortunes.
Mr Romney's calculated prag-matism (he's now a moderate), his willingness to deny and change loyalties (to the NRA), his penchant to sell out to come out on top (Bain), triggered his short-lived momentum that frightened Democrats, coming as it did a few weeks before November 6, and in light of Mr Obama's lacklustre first-debate performance.
In the second debate, President Obama's energetic but calm demeanour bolstered the flagging confidence of Democrats. The spirits of Democrats have soared as Mr Obama built a solid case on why Americans will be better off with him remaining in the White House for another four years.
During their earlier encounter on October 3, President Obama may have given Mitt Romney the benefit of many doubts, perhaps thinking that facts about the Obama administration's accomplishments and truths about Mr Romney's barefaced falsehoods would out. Neither had, at least not the way they ought.
This time, President Obama vigorously defended his admini-stration's accomplishments: (ending the Iraq war, killing bin Laden, cutting taxes for middle-class families, passing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, passing health-care reform, rescuing the auto industry).
Last Tuesday, President Obama repeatedly called out Mitt Romney on his one-point plan and his outrageous claim that he'll balance the budget while spending trillions more without cuts that will harm the middle class and cushion the wealthy.
Journalist-moderator Candy Crowley did well to flag Mr Romney for his false claims on the Obama administration's characterisation of the terror attack in Libya.
Watching each presidential debate and prior performances elsewhere, it is clear that Mitt Romney has no specific and permanent position on vital issues that deeply concern and affect Americans. Mr Romney's only permanent quality on display is his slippery changeability.
The qualities he chooses to display during debates and on the campaign are those that he thinks will best be sold in the moment. Hence, from one stage to another, one interview to the next, no particular attitude or principle is predominant.
Mr Romney is free to radically change his position from the extreme far Right that helped him win the Republican nomination to selling moderate positions on the same issues (assault weapons; contraceptives; the environment; energy; immigration; jobs) now that he seeks to convince middle-class Americans to trust that he truly cares about their welfare.
Acutely goal oriented, Mr Romney flicks into action whatever attitude or quality or position he thinks can best secure desired results, prompting Mr Obama's repeated scolds last Tuesday that what Mr Romney says on this or that issue is "simply not true".
By practised force of personality, Mr Romney wants Americans to just trust him, to trust his assumed positions, his awesome changeability, trust that he truly cares not just for his image, his ambitions and goals, but for widely held objectives and values that abound among middle-class Americans across ethnic and colour lines.
ROMNEY IS TRUSTWORTHY
For sure, Mr Romney will bring prosperity aplenty to America and cohesion to the Middle East. He'll unite the House of Representatives and the Senate across party lines and push through his grand though sketchy economic schema. Why should Americans believe these things? Believe because above all Mr Romney is trustworthy. Trust his personality. Trust his Bain success. Trust his self-inflation. Put your faith in his fluidity.
By contrast, President Obama explains, he demonstrates, he links domestic and foreign policy positions to long-held values that shaped his decisions over the last four years. He draws on values grounded in principles that reveal the solidity of his character. Like Mitt Romney, President Obama asks Americans to vote for him because he is trustworthy.
In the end, Americans will vote not for glib salesmanship but for a candidate who earns their trust, a candidate they believe is trustworthy. No doubt on November 6, Americans will vote to return President Obama to the White House because he earned their trust. In the end, character counts.
Kay M. Osborne is president and CEO of Kay Osborne Associates Ltd. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.