Don’t Criticize Mitt Romney For Vacationing – Criticize Him For Lacking Political Savvy

Oh good. Mitt Romney is cruising around on a jet ski (picture credit to AP photographer Charles Dharapak).

I’m not a fan of criticizing political figures for taking vacations. Every year, when Barack Obama spends a week in Martha’s Vineyard, I cringe at conservative talking heads slamming the President for taking one week for a working vacation when the other 51 weeks of the year he holds the most demanding job in the world. Former Bush administration speech writer wrote a great piece about how much work really goes on during these vacations (though I thought it was a little disingenuous to suggest that 3 one week trips to Martha’s Vineyard compares directly to 77 “extended” trips to Crawford).

But there’s a difference between respecting someone’s down time and questioning their political savvy. When you’re entering the final 5 months of the most important election of your life and struggling to connect with voters who think of you as an out-of-touch plutocrat, it’s not smart to get photographed jet skiing around a lake where you own your own compound.

Maybe Democratic groups won’t pursue this angle directly, but the image of Mitt Romney on a jet ski is reminiscent of the Windsurfing Ad that Bush hammered John Kerry with in 2004. While a jet ski does not carry any “whichever way the wind blows” significance, the Bush ad was as effective for its imagery as its substance. Painting John Kerry as a stereotypical wealthy Brahmin (which, in fairness, he was) drove a wedge between Kerry and the average voter. Here’s the ad showing John Kerry windsurfing.

And now Mitt Romney is falling into the same trap. It makes me wonder if he has advisors or “yes men,” unwilling to speak up and tell the candidate not to put himself in positions that put his candidacy at risk. It’s fashionable in the media to suggest that little events like this don’t matter, but it only takes one exploitable picture to derail a candidacy. I certainly don’t think John Kerry thought his election might turn on his decision to go windsurfing.

Maybe John Kerry is the perfect debate stand-in for Mitt Romney after all.

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