Mitt Romney has proven he can be both plasticy and malleable. These two qualities are what makes Mitt Mitt. They are also the qualities which will propel him close, but not quite to the Presidency.
When Buzz and I were in South Carolina doing a pro bono scouting trip for the Chicago Sun at the University of Charleston this past January, we stumbled upon a Mitt Romney rally and decided to stick around. It was a day before the South Carolina primary, and the crowd was excited to see the former Massachusetts Governor.
In a rally highlighted by the appearances of Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Governor Bob McDonald of Virginia, we were able to observe Romney up close and personal. We came away with one overriding impression: This guy exudes plastic.
From his smile to his freshly pressed jeans to his automaton wave to his sculpted on hair, he just didn't seem real. He was, as some commentators have noted, an almost alien or robotic presence.
And don't think this is just the usual OVC anti-Republican bias, because Buzz and I also met Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, and Buddy Roemer all up close and personal this past year. None of them had the same qualities, in fact, Santorum and Roemer both struck these two middle aged former hippies as two real genuine dudes.
But, perhaps plastic is not the most descriptive term would could use, because whereas plastic is quite rigid, Romney the candidate is quite malleable, but in a plastic sort of way. We turned to the Google to see if both qualities could co-exist in the same product. We found it.
There is an Australian product which is described as a non-toxic, biodegradable plastic that can be shaped in minutes, is re-useable and is virtually indestructible. This product is call Utile Plast.
Romney campaigned in the Republican primary as the "severely conservative" former Governor of Massachusetts, but in the past month he has become the Governor of compromise, a Republican Governor of a state with an 87 percent Democratic legislature. Apparently, just like Utile Plast, both of these qualities did exist in the Governorship of Romney.
He could be considered "severely conservative" in the fact that he vetoed 800 bills during his four years as Governor, but he can also be considered a real "aisle crosser" in the fact that he passed a healthcare reform package with the overwhelming support of Democrats. (The healthcare reform plan which, by the way, is the model for Obamacare.)
Romney would have been the perfect candidate for the pre-internet, pre-television, per-youtube days, because he caters his message to the crowd before whom he speaks.
Back in that Golden Age of politics, a politician could cater his message to a particular crowd, because there weren't thousands of people with iphones recording your every spoken word. This subtlety seems to have been lost on the Romney team.
The most blatant example of this is in Ohio, where Romney must rue the day he penned that infamous "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" editorial. (Yes, we did read the editorial, and we know that Romney did not pick the title.) Today he says that he is the auto industry's best friend.
The Utile Plast candidate also has the advantage, because of the Republican answer to any criticism of "that's just the liberal media." So when Romney changes his position on a major issue and the media calls him on it, he just says, "well that's the liberal media."
Romney reaped the benefits of his malleablity after the first debate. He closed the gap and even passed Barack Obama in a number of national polls. That momentum and surge has now peaked, and recent polls, particularly in the battleground states, have edged back in Obama's favor.
The Utile Plast candidate just doesn't seem to have enough to push him across the finish line.
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