THE STUMP DECEMBER 5, 2011
If you haven't yet, read Robert Draper's cover story on Mitt Romney in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. It's a fine distillation of the Romney campaign's attempt to retool for its second try. It has the most uinintentionally telling quote from within the campaign that I've seen yet: "'The Mormon's never going to win the who-do-you-want-to-have-a-beer-with contest,' concedes one adviser, while another acknowledges, 'He's never had the experience of sitting in a bar, and like, talking.'" It captures well what has only recently started to be addressed in campaign coverage, just how protected from questions (from voters and reporters alike) Romney has been this year. And it makes a sharp substantive critique on the lack of clarity and consistency in Romney's thinking on revitalizing struggling industries, despite all his talk about the economy.
Most selfishly, I appreciated the piece for adding another item to the ledger of Mitt-fits, the confrontations and flare-ups that I described in my own recent cover story on Romney. Draper accepts in passing the basic framework that my piece challenges, that Romney possesses an "otherworldly unflappability," and he mentions none of the instances that my piece catalogs that undermine that assumption (the fight with rapper Sky-Blu, the confrontations with cops.) But Draper concludes his piece with an anecdote that certainly seems to buttress my case:
The following morning in Des Moines, I met with Romney’s former Iowa chairman, Doug Gross. The strategist recalled how he had gotten off to a rocky start with the Romneys when he first traveled to Boston to meet them in the spring of 2007. That day, Gross brought up Romney’s potential liabilities in Iowa — including his previously progressive stances on abortion and gays, along with his Mormon faith — and warned that he would have to prove that he could relate to average voters. According to Gross (and confirmed by someone else who was there): “He got mad, his wife stormed out and he never talked to me the rest of the night. They found it insulting.”
I've met with Doug Gross myself. He's the epitome of the mild-mannered Midwesterner. For someone to get angry amid an introductory political chat with Doug Gross...well, that doesn't seem very unflappable, does it?