OK. We must take Mitt “Eat Your Peas” Romney seriously. It looks as though he might be The One.
Romney has been saddled with the image (in the New York Times) of the overbearing adult who tells you to stop complaining and scarf up those veggies. The image fits. We should eat our vegetables, and it doesn’t bother Romney to drill that into us although we really don’t want to hear it.
GOP major donors don’t want a candidate who fires up the base but loses the general election when independents outnumber tea partiers. Rainmakers are thinking, as is the White House, that Romney is the only serious challenger to President Barack Obama.
So let us ponder Mitt anew.
He is his father’s son. George Romney was a successful businessman and Mormon who became governor of Michigan and ran for president in 1968. George Romney lost to Richard Nixon, in part because Romney said he supported the Vietnam War after he was “brainwashed” by the U.S. military.
Romney’s lines best left unsaid may be his insistence that corporations are people, or perhaps, “I am not a flip-flopper.” When Romney ran in 2008, he outraged many for trying to reinvent himself as a social conservative when he was known as a pragmatist.
Romney was governor of Massachusetts when the health care overhaul was implemented there, helping inspire Obama’s 2010 national health insurance changes. But Romney’s efforts to embrace/disavow/explain his plan have been painful. (“It was OK for my state, maybe not for yours or the nation.”)
Romney is also known for shipping his company’s jobs overseas. He argues he should be president for promising job creation by not raising taxes, cutting spending and getting rid of those excessive regulations.
Arguably, Romney’s best accomplishment is saving the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Park City, Utah. He raised so much money that Park City is still able to train athletes from all over the world. Now that’s cool.
Romney’s big problem is that he has been kind of politically tone deaf. He boasted about tying the family dog to the station wagon on a vacation to Canada, thinking it showed him to be a good father.
In the midst of this current campaign, after one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history, he applied to tear down a $12 million, 3,009-square-foot beachfront home near San Diego and replace it with an 11,062-square-foot mansion, a Western White House for five married sons and 16 grandchildren.
Romney is getting better. He’s smoother. He didn’t let himself be photographed while courting Donald Trump. In Tampa, he insisted Rick Perry’s tenure as a job-creating Texas governor doesn’t mean much. Romney said Texas has no income tax, restricts unions, has a GOP legislature and a lot of oil and gas — but none of that is Perry’s doing. “If he tried to say that, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.” (Kind of clever; Perry once campaigned for Gore.)
Romney says he’s a “real” leader who believes in America’s greatness and resilience. Yawn. But we’ll keep watching as Mitt jogs right before he jogs left. And please pass the fries.
Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.