Although it's really hard to say whether Romney would have been better, all things considered, I do think the public would have had a lot more confidence in his ability to manage in a time of crisis. He could point to his role in the winter Olympics, of course. But, also, he's got lots of other credentials that inspire confidence. Perfect score on SAT, valedictorian as undergrad (as opposed to McCain's 5th from the bottom claim), cum laude at Harvard Law, Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School, highly successful career in equity management, etc.
Of course, as others have noted, Romney comes with his own unique weaknesses. He's a transparently phony politician. His religion puzzles and/or worries many voters. He brings none of that classic republican toughness to the national security issue. He was arguably part of the problem, given his history as big player in the investment world. Etc., etc.
Also, you have the smaller things. Like traveling hundreds of miles with your dog strapped to the roof of your car. Or, the whole "Who Let the Dogs Out"/"Bling Bling" thing up in Michigan. That's the kind of stuff that can hurt in immeasurable ways. Sort of like Kerry windsurfing or Dukakis in the tank with the helmet.
However, every election is different, and this year, the smaller things didn't seem to penetrate so much. The voters were focused on a specific economic crisis in the lead up to election day, which really did hurt McCain for reasons that may not have applied to Romney. In my view, McCain's biggest problem was his complete failure to convince voters that he had what it takes to manage an economy in crisis. He's was notoriously erratic. His VP pick revealed a lack of seriousness toward very serious decisions. His campaign up to that point was all about the military and foreign affairs, with great emphasis on his bio. But, even his military history is rife with habitual (and very consequential)negligence. Everything he touched seemed to end in disaster. That's really the opposite of Romney and Obama, both of whom have been consistently (almost annoyingly) successful throughout their lives.
So, I guess I'm inclined to believe that Romney probably would have performed worse than McCain before the financial crisis. However, in sharp contrast to McCain, Romney's numbers very likely would have improved during the aftermath following the market collapse. Though, I'm confident that Obama still would have ultimately won.
Just say this at politico, a report of Obama's reaction to the speech as he watched from a Montana home:
Obama grabbed a remote control to switch from MSNBC . . . to CSPAN which was carrying Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer's speech live. Some weird record message came on the TV screen and someone else finished switching the channel. Obama and the house guests laughed their way through much of the speech and smiled broadly when President Clinton followed Schweitzer's command to stand up and was laughing. "That was great, that was good," Obama said of the Hillary Clinton video before she came out.
Obama was sitting at the edge of the crowded brown sectional sofa closest to the TV in thre family's small living room, leaning slightly forward, and as the video played he was watching intently with his hands folded together. "It's a nice moment," he said as Clinton came onstage. He also said Chelsea Clinton had "turned into such a wonderful young woman."
Clinton began speaking and when she said she was "a proud suporter of Barack Obama" he smiled and softly shouted "yay" then straightened his face again. He clapped when she said "no way, no how, no McCain."
Obama also smiled and laughed widely when she talked about her sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits. He noded solemnly as she explained why she is supporting Obama and sat silent when she asked her supporters whether the were just in it "for me" or for various needy groups in America. He nodded and clapped when she talked of him signing expanded health care and when she praised Michelle Obama. He nodded and said "Yeah" as she criticized McCain and as her speech neared the end he leaned increasingly closer to the TV set.
This is the best speech she's ever given, on style at least. She's found a rhythm that I didn't see during the primaries (and, yes, I watched dozens of her speeches). Hell, she's giving my boy Barack a run for his money. I think I heard celestial choirs there for a second. See, Hillary, speeches aren't so bad.
That was a really strong ending. All of it was strong, but he really nailed the tone at the end. Basically, he projected a very serious attitude about the stakes of this election and the need to reject the approaches of the past. That kind of speech may offer a more effective way to appeal to Clinton supporters (no bitterness or condescension).
That's an awesome line, but it only hits McCain indirectly. We need more direct strikes on McCain, and I think his most vulnerable areas are the maverick/moderate reputation and his temperament. We need to make him seem like a small-minded Bush partisan with gasoline in his veins.