Mitt Romney’s struggling campaign could use a little of the Jobs business plan — coming up with a grand vision for the future and making a case for it throughout the country. Instead, the candidate with the mind of a consultant has become obsessed with persuading the micro-demographic groups who remain undecided. So there’s an ad about coal in Ohio and Virginia, a “Dear Daughter” ad transparently trying to win over women, and even a Republican National Committee ad featuring a female Hispanic voter “breaking up” with a cardboard cutout of President Obama.
Micro-targeting has worked like a charm for Obama’s campaign, which has avoided talking about the president’s record in favor of mobilizing a base of young voters, minorities, and abortion rights-supporting women to carve out a bare majority. But it’s a questionable strategy for his Republican challenger, who badly needs an overarching vision that appeals to Americans dissatisfied with Obama’s performance in office and struggling in a stagnant economy.
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Rereading Walter Isaacson’s biography of the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, it’s hard not be struck by one passage illustrating the late Apple CEO's philosophy about focus groups and survey data: He ignored it. In his mind, he had a vision for what the iPhone should look like, and it was his job to convince consumers that they absolutely needed a touch-screen phone that could play music and surf the Internet, even though few people were clamoring for it.