He was the No. 1 stunner in our Hot or Not primary, and yet the only metaphor reporters can come up with to describe the choice before Iowa voters is whether they're ready to settle for years of passionless sex with Mitt Romney. "In Iowa, a Time to Vote, and, for Many, to Settle," The New York Times reported on Monday. "Iowa Prepares to Settle for Romney," The Atlantic's Molly Ball wrote a few days earlier. Washington Examiner's Timothy P. Carney even quoted Pride and Prejudice, lamenting, "Republicans are serial settlers when it comes to the presidency. Almost every time, GOP primary voters pick the 'respectable,' connected and seemingly safe pick." And Romney alone gets this treatment. No one writes about sex with Newt Gingrich -- about either wanting it or not wanting it. No one writes about crushes on Rick Santorum, even though the guy talks about bestiality and "the sexual realm." Why only Romney? Is it because Romney is good looking but kind of cold, like when Jude Law played a robot gigolo in A.I.?
The coverage of the 2012 Republican presidential primary reads so much like advice from women's magazines -- the kind of advice that's not really advice, but truisms that make you feel sad and alone. Such as:
The one you love will never love you back.
"So, realistically, we have our field of candidates, and we’re going to have to settle for one of them. Yes, settle. I’m disappointed, too, that my favorites decided to sit this out," the National Review's Mona Charen wrote in October, sounding like the girl who's figured out her gay best friend won't turn straight for her. (No. 5 of "13 Signs He's Not Into You (Sorry)" from iVillage: "He doesn't like committing to plans." Of the nine signs he's gay from The Frisky, No.6 is "Excuses, excuses.").
Dating has grown tiresome.
“There was more energy four years ago for Huckabee -- and even with the last Romney campaign,” Iowa Rep. Steve King told the Times' Mark Leibovich. "I like certain things about all of them, but I've found reasons I couldn't support the other six candidates," Iowa banker Rick Schreier told The Atlantic. (Cosmopolitan UK's No. 5 sign a guy is ready to settle down is "He's had enough of mad birds." The magazine explains, "There comes a point in a man's life when he outgrows those passionate but self-destructive flings with nutty women who had ‘trouble' tattooed on their forehead (or elsewhere) and looks for a ‘normal' relationship. Next stop on the commitment express, marriage and kids.")
It's time to settle for good enough.
"There’s no perfect candidate. The question is what flaws can you put up with," Iowa pastor Jeff Mullen told the Times. “Jesus Christ is not running," Iowa farmer Jim Hanksaker said. "It's impossible to be perfect. There are no more Ronald Reagans," UPS driver Ed Houry told the Atlantic, sounding just like a woman complaining that all the good men are dead, gay or married. "Voters are likely to express their admiration for their choice in fiercely pragmatic terms such as 'most electable,' 'solid,' or 'someone who won’t embarrass us,'" Leibovitch writes. It sounds like these guys have been reading Paul Carrick Brunson's argument in defense of "Underrated Men" for Essence. "If there are 10 single men at a party and you disqualify 9 of them, your probability of meeting Mr. Right shrinks to below 10% (the reason it’s ‘below’ is because, don’t forget, he needs to not disqualify you)" Essence says. (Are you listening, Ms. Charen?) To meet a guy, one must "Open your mind to new men." Who are those new men? "No Flava Guys" -- The 'he’s a cornball' excuse can only last so long. Having 'flava' says NOTHING about what’s most important, the husband he will be and also the father he will be to your children."
Could this be about Mitt Romney? The Times has extensively chronicled his lack of flava, from his dorky Tommy Bahama jeans to his dated haircut to his awkward small talk. Another Essence suggestion: "Non-Black Guys" -- "the idea of not 'dating out' because you’re afraid of what your friends and family will say when you bring him to the 4th of July barbecue is unfair to your search for love. Don’t be afraid to bring home a White boy!" Or... a Mormon boy? Are you listening, evangelical Iowans? Frank Coulter, a 78-year-old retired mail carrier, certainly is. At church Sunday, he told the Times' A.G. Sulzberger, "he was leaning towards Mr. Romney, despite his Mormon faith, because he was 'a good family man.'"
"It's about having all of these options, and not knowing how to choose from among them, or whether we even want to," the Village Voice's Jen Doll wrote on the state of New York City single gals in 2011, though she sounded like a campaign correspondent. "Everyone has to make choices. ... But inevitably, you'll have to give up one thing for something else. Why should you settle? Because that's what all humans do when they make choices."