During the RNC Convention, part of the campaign to “humanize” Mitt Romney required discussing his Mormon faith, and his days at Bain. (This was necessary, inasmuch as both are important parts of his biography — and both had come under attack.)
But something about it gave me pause. When I listened to some of the speakers on stage, there was a sense that defending these institutions was an equally important goal — as it if were part of the larger mission of the campaign.
This is potentially problematic. The goal is to win an election, not an argument about religion or business (as noble as that might be).
And while winning elections and arguments aren’t mutually exclusive, the two are sometimes at odds. Maybe, for example — having now filled out his biography — the smart strategic for Mitt Romney is to move away from talking about venture capitalism or Mormonism? Would that dispassionate decision disappoint some of his supporters? — possibly even some on his team?
Strategic decisions can be compromised when there are competing goals.
One of my favorite lines from 2001’s “Oceans 11” comes when Rusty (Brad Pitt) discovers Danny (George Clooney) has ulterior motives for wanting to knock over the casinos. It’s not just about the money — Danny also wants to get back at the casino owner who is now seeing Clooney’s ex-wife (Julia Roberts.).
“Okay, here’s the problem,” Rusty says. “We’re stealing two things. And when push comes to shove, and you can’t have both, which are you gonna choose?”
It’s a question worth pondering.
Educating the public is, of course, an important part of political leadership. But as Romney seeks to wrest the White House from President Obama, his team and supporters must do so with a singleness of purpose.
Romney’s supporters — particularly those in the LDS and business community — have good reason to feel that they have been under attack. But for the next couple of months, they should ask themselves the same question Pitt asked Clooney: When push comes to shove, which are you gonna choose?
Whether knocking over casinos, or trying to knock off an incumbent, the same rules apply: Competing goals can complicate a difficult mission.
Mormonism and venture capitalism won’t be on the ballot in November.
Mitt Romney, however, will.