Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Talented Mr. Romney

Joe Klein and Jonathan Martin both spent some time on the stump with Mitt Romney. They left wowed, yet underwhelmed.

Joe's gripe is Romney's utter lack of courage: he never says anything hard, something he believes in but that runs counter to the views of the GOP base. Jonathan's complaint is Romney's lack of warmth, whereby he connects personally to a person, on an individual rather than an ideological level.

I think these analyses are right, but they're correctable, and my bet is that people will remember Romney more for his gifts than his gaffes. Here's Joe:

He conveys a sense of power and fluency—and fun. He has a self-deprecating sense of humor and uses it to good effect. . . .

He has a perfectly Republican demeanor, sunny and businesslike, and a perfectly Republican stump speech. . . .

Romney is the most perfect iteration I've seen of the television-era candidate. At one point, I squinted a bit and saw him in the middle distance: blue suit, white shirt, red tie, high forehead, slick black hair, tan, tall and ramrod straight—he could have been an exhibit in some future Museum of Natural History: Politicianus americanus.

And Jonathan:

Romney is exceptionally quick on his feet and a political consultant’s dream when it comes to what the pros call “message discipline.”

And like his potential Democratic rival, Romney is good on details, preparation and finding common ground.

If he’s in the biggest city in the western part of this state’s corn belt, he’ll pepper his remarks with an easy discourse on the intricacies of the local crop and a recollection of youthful days working on an uncle’s farm in Idaho.

An appearance in a heavily Dutch town up the road later in the day prompts him to recall campaigning in similar communities in western Michigan such as Holland when his father was running for governor.

As those who have been Romney-tized will attest, the guy is good. . . .

When delving into questions—immigration, Iraq, even his faith—here he can rattle off a tightly packaged answer that would align with a PowerPoint slideshow, Romney’s presentation is crisp, even dazzling.

Update (6/18): Mark Leibovich of the NYT echoes Jonathan:

While he is climbing in the polls, some people who have seen him close up at recent events describe him as impressive but somewhat detached. He struggles at times to convey a sense that he is an accessible mortal—that he can be spontaneous, that he bears scars and can appreciate at gut-level the struggles of ordinary Americans. . . .

At a speech to an insurance company in Dover, NH, Mr. Romney was asked about stem-cell research by Karen Olivier, of Epping, who like Ann Romney suffers from multiple sclerosis. “I have a personal interest in this, as does your wife,” Mrs. Olivier added.

Mr. Romney ignored the opening about his wife and gave a lengthy version of his standard stem-cell speech. . . .

While buoyant, Mr. Romney is hardly freewheeling and leaves little to instinct. “Some people go with the gut feel, but that’s not the school I come from,” Mr. Romney said in an interview. “I believe in being highly analytical and deliberative in making decisions”. . . .

“Running for president in the YouTube era, you realize you have to be very judicious in what you say,” Mr. Romney said. . . . "You have to recognize that anytime you’re running for the presidency of the United States, you’re on.”