Republican strategists unaffiliated with the campaign say Romney's biggest hurdle is to get elected in the first place. Once in office, they say, he'd deploy his considerable analytical and problem-solving skills – honed in a successful career in private equity.
"His challenge has been in being a superb political candidate, not in being a superb political leader," said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, speaking before the Oct. 3 debate, which Romney was widely seen to have won.
The need to communicate effectively doesn't end with the election, says Mr. Ayres, but campaigning and governing are dissimilar enterprises: "Romney's ability to analyze a situation and find points of agreement is critical for governing effectively. Being a candidate is more about drawing distinctions and highlighting differences, as opposed to finding areas of agreement."
In the Oct. 3 debate, Romney was asked about the criticism of his vagueness about which exemptions and deductions he would change in the tax code while lowering all rates. His answer suggested the vagueness was intentional, that it foretold openness to collaborating with Congress: "[In] my experience as a governor, if I come in and lay down a piece of legislation, and say, 'It's my way or the highway,' I don't get a lot done. What I'd do is the same way that [Democratic House Speaker] Tip O'Neill and [Republican President] Ronald Reagan worked together...."
Analyses of Romney's style of governing Massachusetts reveal a man who took office with a chief-executive-officer approach to government, and learned that his top-down style didn't work. Some initiatives "vanished without a trace" because he hadn't cultivated relationships in the Democratic legislature, write Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman in "The Real Romney." "Romney, never a backslapper, invested little in building such ties – or even in getting to know the players."