RICHMOND, Va. — The thousands of Obama supporters who gathered here Saturday for the second of two campaign kickoff addresses by the president ticked off a litany of fears when asked what makes them nervous about the general election campaign.
Not on the list: Mitt Romney.
The former blue-state governor and likely presidential candidate straight from central casting used to make Democrats very nervous. Earlier in the cycle, more than one Democrat admitted aloud Romney would be a dangerous opponent, easily the biggest threat among the Republican field. But Obama supporters in Richmond sounded considerably more upbeat after a bruising primary that pushed Romney to the right and produced a highlight reel of embarrassing moments as he struggled to knock off weaker competition.
“Any man who’s making $58,000 a day, has never worked, is a venture capitalist, which is basically someone who would come in and destroy my business [is not threatening],” said Kim Goodloe, a middle-aged self-proclaimed “small-business owner” from Hanover, Va. “I see Mitt Romney, who is worried about the stockholder and the dividend being paid.”
This is not to say that Goodloe is confident that Obama has the election in the bag. She said she’s afraid voter ID laws will suppress Democratic turnout, that young people aren’t as fired up as they once were and that the listing economy will result in voters staying home.
“People are tired, they’re tired of watching the fighting and they’re tired of all the big money,” she said. “And then when you add in all that voter ID stuff it’s just, you know, one more thing.”
Fear of voter ID laws — which the Obama campaign has admitted could be a problem in the fall and has tried to combat with massive registration and voter-education drives — came up often in conversations at the Virginia rally. The state is an important one for Obama ,and its Republican-led Legislature has tried to put its own voter ID law on the books.
Obama has tried to tie Romney to the Republicans in Washington and the GOP-led state legislatures around the country that have passed restrictions on abortion and tried to impede Obama’s plans to improve access to contraception. The image of Romney as extremist stuck with Obama supporters here. Gina Harris, an office manager, said Romney’s policies would be “the worst” — but when asked if she was afraid of his campaign, she sounded nonplussed.
“He seems to tailor his message to whatever audience is there,” she said. “He doesn’t seem to connect with people — even his own base. The people voting for him will be holding their nose, they just want to defeat the president.”
Romney as terrifying GOP bogeyman is an image that could drive otherwise less-enthused young people to the polls, said Catlin Deighan, 22.
“I think that it’s different this time,” she said. “For me, there was more enthusiasm for Obama last time around. This time around I just feel I don’t want the Republican Party in power and that’s why I’m going to vote. It’s less ‘I love Obama so I’m going to vote for him’ and more ‘the Republicans suck.’”
Obama supporters don’t think Romney is in a position to turn that impression around before November.
“I think we’re in a good place because of the momentum [Obama’s] already built,” said Lewis Johnson, 37. “Romney has a harder hill to climb because he hasn’t built that trust with America.”
But it’s not just the modern GOP that makes Romney less dangerous than originally thought. As they’ve watched Romney stumble on the trail, Obama supporters are starting to get the feeling the presumptive nominee may be terrible at politicking.
“I’m not worried,” said Gwendolyn Parham, 74. “I don’t think he’s as strong as Obama in the political sense, in terms of of skills and ability. It’s not because he’s a Republican, it’s because of what I’ve observed from him.”