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Cover Story

Election 2012: How Romney might lead on new Washington terrain

Romney White House scenarios beyond a top-down CEO approach. A two-part election 2012 report profiles the stark differences and interesting similarities of a second-term Obama White House vs. a Romney White House – either of which would have to deal with a highly polarized Congress.

By Staff writer / October 14, 2012

This two-part cover story for the Oct. 15 issue of The Christian Science MonitorWeekly looks here at how a Romney White House might operate and in a companion article at how a second-term Obama White House might be different.

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Washington

If Mitt Romney wins the presidency, chances are the Republicans will also have swept Capitol Hill, holding onto the House and taking the Senate.

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But history has shown that one-party control of the White House and Congress guarantees nothing – especially in the highly partisan atmosphere that dominates Washington.  

And if the Republicans win the Senate, the majority will be slim. Democrat Harry Reid, as wily an operator as anyone on Capitol Hill, would become the Senate minority leader and could be counted on to use every legislative tool available to thwart a President Romney.

Any discussion of a Mr. Romney presidency lands on three key questions: Will the Republican former governor of Democratic Massachusetts, who has never served in Washington, be able to navigate the complexities of Congress, even with Republican majorities? What did Romney learn from his experience in Massachusetts, particularly in enacting health-care reform? And what do his struggles as a politician – a diffidence and opaqueness acknowledged even by his supporters – mean for his ability to build support for his agenda once in office?

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."

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