Andrew Ferguson, one of the best writers on either the right or left, has an interesting piece on the dearth of books about Mitt Romney and why that’s hurting him with voters thus far. The takeaway is Mitt Romney is a genuinely good guy, has always been one, and hardly anyone knows it.
I assumed I was missing something and resolved to dive into the Romney literature, which I soon discovered should post a disclaimer, like a motel pool: NO DIVING. By my count the literature includes one good book, The Real Romney, by two reporters from the Boston Globe. That’s the same Globe with the leftward tilt to its axis and a legendary anti-Romney animus—which lends authority to their largely favorable portrait. The flattering details of Romney’s life were so numerous and unavoidable that the authors, dammit, had no choice but to include them.
I understand that Mitt Romney is a humble man. He doesn’t like to blow his own horn, although if he did, he’d have little time to do much else. He’s a good man who gives generously and at a moment’s notice and he has taught every one of his sons to be the same kind of man not by talk but by example. He’s the sort of role model many of us crave when we see the infantile movie stars, petulant athletes, and cry-baby politicians who talk a good game about helping the needy but rarely lend more than their voices to the cause.
Mitt Romney has spent his entire life taking care of his business and bragging about it not at all. Unlike President Obama, he didn’t write two books about how awesome and different he is, though his Mormon faith is more different and interesting to mainstream America then whatever the President has cobbled together out of soggy fortune cookie platitudes, “God damn America” yelps, and Bible misquotes. The story of how he and his wife Ann met, fell in love, and raised a family through a considerable amount of hardship would make Al Gore’s Love Story seem like a cheap paperback novel. The tales of how he and Ann raised so many good sons would light up the front page of any mommy-blog like The Stir.
His humility is a good thing, but not for a politician and certainly not for a candidate for the position of leader of the free world. At some point, Mitt Romney has to get these stories out, not in a “hey look how awesomely humble I am” way, but in a “the tall tales the President’s been telling about how I want to grind gays, women, and the poor into a life-sustaining paste is bunk” way. Thus far, his campaign has kept those stories under wraps, which, as Moe Lane most eloquently points out, is not exactly the smartest political thing to do.
Mitt Romney has been spending his entire damn life wandering around and doing kind things for people. AND HE NEVER [EXPLETIVE DELETED] TALKS ABOUT IT. AND HIS CAMPAIGN STAFF NEVER [EXPLETIVE DELETED] TALKS ABOUT IT, EITHER. Getting these stories out of them is like pulling teeth. I mean. Geez. The guy once saved a freaking family of six from drowning, and I only found out about it third-hand.
The worst part? This modesty is all very Christian of Mitt Romney, so you feel bad about getting annoyed about it.
Actually, I don’t feel bad. I feel pretty darned good about my annoyance. Mitt Romney may be setting high score in Xtreme Mormoning, but he’s not running for Mormon Champion. He’s running for President of the United States and, by God, heartwarming stories about how the candidate does selfless things for no thanks at all is a huge freaking Bonus Multiplier. Voters like competence, sure, but they absolutely love stories that make them go “awwwwwwwwwww”. Mitt Romney’s life is packed full of those stories. Take this one, for instance.
Almost every personal detail about Romney I found endearing. But my slowly softening opinion went instantly to goo when The Real Romney unfolded an account of his endless kindnesses—unbidden, unsung, and utterly gratuitous. “It seems that everyone who has known him has a tale of his altruism,” the authors write. I was struck by the story of a Mormon family called (unfortunately) Nixon. In the 1990s a car wreck rendered two of their boys quadriplegics. Drained financially from extraordinary expenses, Mr. Nixon got a call from Romney, whom he barely knew, asking if he could stop by on Christmas Eve. When the day came, all the Romneys arrived bearing presents, including a VCR and a new sound system the Romney boys set up.
Heartwarming, huh? Mitt Romney and Family Save Christmas? Well, the story isn’t over. Not only did the Romney’s show up with armloads of awesome gifts, not only did they hang around to set up the brand-new sound system, they…well, look.
Later Romney told Nixon that he could take care of the children’s college tuition, which in the end proved unnecessary. “I knew how busy he was,” Nixon told the authors. “He was actually teaching his boys, saying, ‘This is what we do. We do this as a family.’ ”
Read that one again. The Romneys offered to pay those two boys’ college tuition bills. We’re not talking about a couple thousand dollars here. That’s serious money, even if the boys went to an inexpensive state school. That story should have been out there weeks ago to hammer at Barack Obama’s huge “likeability” advantage. Take a look at the latest Gallup Poll, in which Obama holds a 54-31 advantage overall and a 52-36 advantage on the “”Cares about the needs of people like you” question. Do you really think the President would be 23 points more likeable if a few “Mitt Romney Saves Christmas, A Puppy, and College” stories had come out over the past two months? I sure as heck don’t. We know Barack Obama would have those stories out there if any of them existed, but they aren’t there. Mitt Romney could fill a shelf with them. So lets hear them.
I’m not saying Romney’s people need to start printing up brag sheets or handing out The Big Book of Mitt Romney’s D’awwwww Moments. I am saying sometimes things leak out of a campaign. Staffers talk. They tell stories around reporters. Sometimes they tell stories to reporters, complete with things like names and dates and places about which a reporter could follow-up. Sometimes they say a word or two, totally on background you understand, to bloggers they know are handy with the research skills. What I’m saying is a skilled campaign operator has ways. Yeah, sure, when they hit the national media, we’ll all know they were intentional leaks, but so what? That’s how the political game is played. Campaigns leak things they don’t want to say themselves (or have Stephanie Cutter, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the Priorities USA PAC say them, but Romney doesn’t have those people, does he?). That the Romney campaign, which has more than its share of skilled campaign operators, is not leaking any of these stories means that someone way up at the top is making an enormous mistake and it could cost them the election. I very much hope they correct that and get a few more of those stories into the hearts and minds of voters. They don’t need to write a book, but surely if they leaked enough stories for someone else to write it, that would help, yes?
Category: The 2012 Horse Race