The biggest story of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has been that he can't get Republican voters excited about him. That was true during the primaries, when a series of increasingly ridiculous candidates briefly polled ahead of him, and it's still true now that the general election has begun. Romney and his wife, Ann, met with a couple dozen conservative bloggers Wednesday, for example, with the aim of offering "sort of an olive branch to conservative media," an attendee told The Huffington Post's Michael Calderone. How did that resonate? One of the blogs represented was Riehl World View, posted Thrusday, "Among the walking wounded emerging from our Republican-primaries foxhole to look around at what's still standing, are we hearing what we want to hear from the Romney campaign now that we've given up the ghost of our preferred candidate?" That doesn't sound like a fan to us. Nevertheless, there are real people who voted for Romney -- with enthusiasm. It's just a little hard to find them.
In October, we scoured the internet hunting for a truly enthusiastic Romney fan -- which we defined as someone 1) not employed by the campaign who was 2) wearing a Mitt Romney shirt and 3) looked happy. (A die-hard Newt Gingrich fan was more easily located in November.) As Romney moved closer to winning the Republican nomination, his rallies were packed with happy fans waving pro-Romney signs. But it was still a rare thing to see someone who liked Romney so much they'd wear his name on his chest, and even rarer to see someone with an attractive, modern, even trendy pro-Romney shirt in the wild. That's the New Hampshire man, pictured above in a Romney face shirt at an April 24, immediately jumped out at us. The Atlantic Wire called Galamaga, the Genuine Enthusiastic Mitt Romney Fan, and here's what we learned:
Name: Pete Galamaga
Occupation: High school teacher
Location: Bedford, New Hampshire -- a swing state!
Liked Romney since: 2002, when Galamga, then a Massachusetts resident, voted for Romney to be governor.
Most obvious sign of Romney fandom: This Genuine Romney Fan refers to the candidate as "Mitt," not "Romney," a sign of connection reminiscent of all those college kids swooning about "Barack" four years ago.
What he likes about Romney: "I liked that he's competent. That's that's the word I'm going to use -- competent.. He's a guy who knows what he's doing, he has experience. I think he's got integrity. I think he's a decent man... We need to have some real honest discussions about what's going on. I think Mitt does that. I think he brings that to the table... When you're carrying your banner for your party, some of these issues you gotta toe the party line, and I think he's in that spot on some of the social issues."
What he did not like about the other candidates: "I'll be honest with you -- I'm a public school teacher so a lot of my friends are a little bit more on the left side of the aisle. So just combining my personal feelings with seeing their reactions to some of these candidates, I thought, if we want to win in 2012, we need somebody who isn't going to scare people." Whether the scariness is real or perceived, "Rick Santorum -- it's too easy to make a boogeyman out of him." Reflecting on all the Not Romneys, Galamaga said, "I knew from my friends that they were not going to win in 2012."
What he doesn't like about conservative blogs: Galamaga does not suffer from "epistemic closure," a bloggy meme from the last couple years that held that conservatives can enclose themselves entirely in a world full of conservative facts, which do not always align perfectly with real world facts ("death panels"). Galamaga reads all kinds of news -- not just mainstream media, but both liberal and conservative sites. "I used to be really, really into the whole back and forth… but I kinda dropped out of that about a year ago. I got tired of the whole back and forth with Fox News versus MSNBC, Newsbusters versus Media Matters."
He later emailed to elaborate on his moment of talking head clarity: "About a year or so ago I really hit a wall with the back and forth bickering on TV, on the radio, on Facebook etc. I realized that I was being manipulated by folks like Bill Maher and Sean Hannity who get people worked up with the 'outrage of the day' and in the meantime generate tons of traffic to their Web sites etc. I'm ashamed to say that I got sucked in for a time. Maybe it's just me and my circle of friends (and getting older?) – who run the gamut from far left to far right – but I'm seeing a lot of other folks walk away from it too."
But some of his friends don't know what's out there. "As someone who's a conservative, I used to go to all those [conservative] websites and all that. I used to think I was really conservative until I ran into those people. My fellow teachers call me a right winger, and I'm like, 'Oh if you think I'm right wing you gotta meet some of these people." Noting that lots of conservative websites are skeptical of Romney, Galamaga says, "When I see people reacting hat way to him, I almost feel even more confident that I made the right decision because he doesn't inspire extremism."
Curious commonality with Romney: Speaking of the partisan fighting on blogs, Galamaga said, "I got sick of all that… This person slams this person. This person doesn't like women. This person eats dogs -- jeez!" That's right -- "Jeez." Just like Romney, Galamaga is prone to some G-rated exclamations.
How Romney's message is connecting: Galamaga says of the current administration, "I'm looking at my family, looking at my own situation. I think President Obama is a decent man, He has a level of integrity. I just don't think he's competent." Obama is a nice guy, just in over his head -- that's been Romney's message since last spring. ("The president's a nice guy, and I know he's trying, but he doesn't understand how the economy works," Romney said in June.) It's a way to take on a president whose popularity is high even when his job approval rating isn't.
How the rest of the family feels: Galamaga's wife isn't passionate about politics, "but I think she likes Mitt. My son likes Mitt but he's only in fifth grade. I took him to the rally because I want him to get the civic experience. My 5-year-old likes Obama. I don't know if he was tweaking me, but he ordered an Obama biography."
Where he got the shirt: Galamaga sent a $50 donation back in 2007 to get the shirt, but he probably won't be buying any new ones this year. The economy's too poor, and the Galamagas have had to cut back on necessities: "We got rid of cable."