Conservative voters don't like Mitt Romney because he seems insufficiently committed to their ideals, but reporters like that he offers them an opportunity to play psychologist. Bow-tie-wearing conservative columnist George Will is so outraged that Romney is a "recidivist reviser of his principles" that he's moved to write in all caps in his next column. But what really gets under non-movement journalists's skin is how lame the candidate is, and periodically a psychoanalytical profile of the former Massachusetts governor is written to explain why he can't inspire passion from anyone.
The New York Times
' Ashley Parker
writes Friday that Romney's problem is that he likes rules too much. While some pundits cheered Romney's rare aggressive moments this year -- shouting down an angry voter, making fun of Rick Perry at the debate -- Parker says those moments reveal Romney's "inner gendarme." When Perry interrupted Romney's 30-second response at the most recent debate, Romney appealed to the CNN debate moderator, Anderson Cooper. Parker confides, "it has become something of a running joke among the traveling press corps to call out 'Anderson? Anderson?' when things go awry." Other examples of Romney's dorky love of rules: when his campaign says no reporter questions at an event, he won't take reporter questions. And he and his wife were observant Mormon teenagers, they never shared a bed when they went to a lakehouse together. "Secretly bunking up, of course, would have been breaking the rules," Parker concludes.
's Andrew Romano
says Romney's great on paper, but when "real human beings aren't kept at a respectful distance," Romney doesn't shine. He sets this scene at the Iowa state fair in which Romney is munching on a pork-chop-on-a-stick the whole time, transcribing a long and excruciating bit of small talk with a voter. ("[Romney] took a bite, and then, still chewing, struck up a conversation with the nearest retiree, if 'conversation' is the right word for what Romney does with voters, which usually involves repeating whatever they say to him immediately after they say it. ... 'That’s the best thing at the fair," the retiree said ... 'Is that the best thing at the fair?' Romney repled."). Given that all small talk is unbearable and embarrassing and looks stupid when transcribed, this isn't quite fair. But Romano goes on to diagnose Romney's problem -- he's "not very good at winning votes" -- as a symptom of his lame personality and inability to be like his dad. He talks to social science researchers who say Romney's too introverted and conscientious to be liked by voters. Romano say it's a "cliché" that Romney seems like a clone of his dad. George Romney headed American Motor Company before being twice elected governor of Michigan in the 1960s; he ran for president, lost, and was appointed secretary of Housing and Urban Development. "There is one detail, however, that no one ever bothers to mention: personality-wise, George and Mitt didn’t have all that much in common," Romano writes. (Actually, a lot of people mention this.)
The contrast between father and son couldn’t be clearer. George barreled impulsively ahead, confident that he could convince anyone of anything because he’d always convinced them before; Mitt, on the other hand, behaves like a man who was born on third base but worries that he’s about to make a mistake that will send him back to second. ... “George was a Horatio Alger figure,” says Walter DeVries, who oversaw the elder Romney’s campaigns and served as a close adviser in Lansing. “He turned those blue eyes on you and you did what he wanted. Mitt is different. He’s been given the world, and he seems afraid of losing it.”
Politico's Ben Smith
, too, says Romney's operating in "George Romney's shadow," Smith reports. Smith points to a New York Times
' profile from 2007 that argues the candidate's problem is that he wants to be like his risk-taking dad but he's really more like his cautious mom. Smith spoke to the elder Romney's former aides, who said "George was much more willing to take risks than Mitt seems to be." George was "brash," "gutsy," while Mitt isn't "the kind of person who takes a lot of chances," but instead is "gun shy." And why is he gun shy? Because George's presidential chances were destroyed when he said he'd been brainwashed on the Vietnam war in 1968. The lesson both Romano and Smith draw is that while the elder Romney was a gifted politician who didn't become president because of one off-the-cuff remark, Romney is a terrible politician because he's afraid to say anything off the cuff. But George Romney won only one more election than Mitt Romney has so far.