THE STUMP JANUARY 23, 2012
If you haven't read it already, I recommend Jonathan Martin and John Harris' Politico piece about the "perfect mess" that Mitt Romney has created for himself by being so...darn perfect. It gets at something I've been asking for some time: is this really the man Republicans want for this moment?
The widening gap between Romney in theory, a man who oozes plausibility as a potential president, and Romney in practice, a candidate who just might be missing some kind of intangible something, is now a dominant storyline in the GOP presidential race....Americans may prefer politicians with visible flaws—outsized appetites and messy scandals like Gingrich and Bill Clinton—or at least with twisting and improbable personal journeys. Of the past two presidents, George W. Bush had two decades of drift and excess before finding direction, and Barack Obama described his own history of alienation and painful searching that preceded his political success.
By these lights, human frailties are the new political norm, and the every-hair-in-place smoothness of Romney's political persona, combined with his wealth, that comes off as insular and even odd. “Redemption is far better box office than perfection,” said New Hampshire GOP strategist Pat Griffin. “We can all relate to redemption. Very few people can look at the perfectly coiffed Romneys, all good posters for oral hygiene, and say, ‘That’s me!”
As National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote last year, Romney’s too-good-to-be-true persona brings to mind what British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said of his counterpart William Gladstone: “He had not a single redeeming defect.”
I'll just add one thought here to close the perfect circle: if the Romney campaign is aware of this problem, as the article suggests it is, why has it been going around the country showcasing...just how perfect Mitt is? Whenever possible, the campaign trots the perfectly photogenic family out onto the stage. And here is how Ann Romney humanizes her husband for audiences, steering clear of the Michelle Obama approach of taking her husband down a notch or two with a remark about dirty socks left on the floor: "I can promise you that his character is exemplary, that he's always done the right thing in his life, in every respect." (This was Ann's line in Council Bluffs, Iowa, but it varies little elsewhere.) Wow, in every respect, huh? Even when he disobeyed the park ranger and got arrested, or when he cursed out the cops in Utah? That's the funny thing about this -- Romney actually does have some material to work with if he wants to make himself a little more mortal (Who among us hasn't gotten in an air-rage altercation with a ridiculous hip-hop star?).
Instead, here's what Romneyworld thinks of as a foible, according to Politico:
It frustrates Romney sympathizers that they can't better convey the normal elements of the candidate and his family.
"You show up at their [lake home] in New Hampshire and there's wet towels everywhere, kid's games scattered," noted a Romney confidant. "But I don't know how we show that without also showing his wealth."
Towels everywhere! Games scattered! Mon dieu! Somewhat might step on a Monopoly piece! (Oh, goshdarnit, wrong game...)