Slouching Towards Tampa (With Friends Like These edition)

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With his certain victory today in the Texas primary, Mitt Romney will finally have his party’s nomination more or less sewn up, but is there anyone, even among Republicans, who actually likes Romney? Of course not, but it’s fascinating to watch those who, for various reasons, are pretending that they do.

Let’s start with evangelicals, a voting bloc without which the Republican Party would be about as viable as Whigs. Romney has a dual problem with evangelicals: he’s nowhere near conservative enough, no matter how much he pretends to be, and his religion is regarded by a large swath of the Christian right as little more than Scientology with a big-ass choir.

Romney made the quadrennial ritual forelock-tugging visit to Liberty “University” on May 12. Despite a large turnout to hear him speak, and the faint praise of some in attendance, others on campus were less than welcoming:

Liberty teaches that Mormonism is a cult, and university officials took down a commencement Facebook page after it was flooded with hundreds of posts objecting to Romney’s appearance.

Jerry Falwell Jr., the “school” chancellor, showed off his versatility with a little stand-up routine before Romney’s speech, likely sending Jerry Sr.’s corpse into rapid rotation:

… Jerry Falwell Jr. told parents, staff and students that “we are electing a commander-in-chief, not a pastor-in-chief.”

Not to be outdone, the candidate did some comedic ancestor-spinning of his own:

Romney went right at the latest hot-button issue, bringing much of the audience to its feet in cheers by declaring: “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”

Romney has also received lukewarm plaudits from another previously hostile demographic, his former primary rivals. Erstwhile Swiss citizen Michele Bachmann, for example, had contended as far back as December:

“No, he cannot beat Obama because his policy is the basis for Obamacare… You can’t have a candidate who has given the blueprint for Obamacare. It’s too identical. It’s not going to happen. We have to have a candidate, a bold distinct candidate in the likeness of Ronald Reagan.”

Not having found such a candidate, Bachmann has since decided that if she squints tightly enough, a flip-flopping, suspiciously moderate, milquetoast venture capitalist is close enough. Bachmann also accompanied fellow has-been Herman Cain to a DC press conference on May 16, where Cain issued his own full-throated “yeah, he’ll do” endorsement:

“We as conservatives know that in order to win, we have got to rally around our nominee… It is clear that Governor Mitt Romney is going to be our nominee, so I wanted to formally endorse him today… I know there are lot of people who may not be as excited as some of us about the process, or as excited about the ultimate nominee…”

Another vocal Romney skeptic has finally come around, if only because it keeps his incessantly marketed name in the news:

… Donald Trump is delighted that Mitt Romney is using The Donald’s star power to lure lottery contestants and donors to a major fundraiser June 28 for Romney’s presidential juggernaut.

… fortunate attendees will receive, according to the campaign, “airport transportation in the Trump vehicle… stay at the Trump International Hotel & Tower… [get a] tour of Trump Tower” and “dine with Donald Trump and Mitt Romney.” Trump will host a fundraiser for Romney, featuring a drop-by by former rival Newt Gingrich, next Tuesday at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas.

Trump managed to fake enthusiasm for Romney better than most, but can’t do so without, as is his wont, paying homage to himself:

“I feel strongly that Mitt is really doing well. I think he’s gonna be a great candidate and a great president. We need a great president. I feel a lot of people listen to what I have to say.”

Funny stuff, though not as funny as his tellingly phallic comments from April of last year:

“I’m a much bigger business man and have (a) much, much bigger net worth. I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney,” Trump said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Romney, a candidate who will unhesitatingly cozy up to any abrasive jackass, is perfectly cool with another of Trump’s look-at-me gambits, his birther obsession. In fact, it was precisely this topic that yesterday prompted Romney to make his first honest statement of the campaign:

Asked… whether Trump’s questioning of President Barack Obama’s birthplace gave him pause, Romney simply said he was grateful for all his supporters.

“You know, I don’t agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” Romney said. “But I need to get 50.1% or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

Whether that appreciation extends as far as granting Trump a plum turn at the podium in Tampa remains to be seen:

“Mr. Trump’s massive popularity is just one of the many reasons he is being sought as a keynote speaker at the Tampa RNC Convention,” Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump, told The Daily Caller.

Trump’s not the only major league asshat who seems to have succumbed to a mild case of Romney fever recently. You might remember a Republican éminence grise or bête noire – named George W. Bush:

“I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush told ABC News this morning as the doors of an elevator closed on him, after he gave a speech on human rights a block from his old home — the White House.

Alas, since Bush was essentially as welcome as herpes to the organizers of the 2008 Republican convention in Saint Paul, I don’t expect his being “for Mitt Romney” will net him much mic time this go-round, which is a pity. It would be a real highlight of the convention to see Bush and Trump on stage together, spinning plates, perhaps, or maybe doing a combover-and-paper version of “Dueling Banjos.”

Romney does have one booster who seems to be sincere, a 69-year-old Virginian named Jim Wilson, but Wilson’s devotion transcends mere liking and verges on obsession:

For the past year, Mr. Wilson has devoted himself with the single-mindedness of a college-age groupie to following Mr. Romney around the country in decidedly conspicuous style: driving a pickup truck festooned with 27 giant Romney for President posters. (The largest are the size of a refrigerator.)

Forgoing home-cooked meals and forbearing horrendous traffic, he has driven, sometimes nonstop, from Omaha to Charlotte, N.C., (19 hours), Portsmouth, Va., to Tampa, Fla., (14 hours) and Des Moines to Manchester, N.H., (22 hours), showing up, almost without fail, just in time to greet guests outside of a Romney event…

… Since last summer, he has logged about 40,000 miles, visited 15 states and attended 150 campaign events on Mr. Romney’s behalf.

“I don’t think anyone has as much sweat equity in this sucker as I have,” Mr. Wilson said.

That’s all well and good, I suppose, but Wilson is merely a retired insurance salesman. According to a CBS report, Romney is meeting today in Vegas with a potential friend much more to his tastes, a rich man determined to throw enormous amounts of money at gormless Republican candidates:

… Romney is set to meet with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson today at Adelson’s offices at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas…

Adelson and his wife are to date the largest donors to the presidential race, providing $20 million to the super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich called Winning Our Future…

In fairness, there might actually be one person who likes Mitt, even if the wedding vows of the LDS Church don’t specify that she has to: Ann Romney. She’s been trying desperately to humanize her husband’s image since April:

… during an interview with Baltimore radio station WBAL… the host asked her, “And one of the things, Ann Romney, that folks talk about with your husband, Mitt Romney, and I’ve seen him in casual conversation-He comes off very smooth and okay. But sometimes he comes off stiff. Do you have to fight back some criticism, like ‘My husband isn’t stiff, OK?’”

Laughing, Ann Romney responded, “Well, you know, I guess we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out because he is not!”

“You know, it is so funny to me that that is the perception out there. Because he is funny, he is engaging, he is witty,” said Ann Romney. “He is always playing jokes. When I met him as a teenager, he was the life of the party…”

These fanciful claims having failed to persuade anyone, she tried again a month later:

“I think in politics that is what always happens, there is a narrative and sometimes you like to put him in a box and keep in that box,” said Mrs. Romney…

“It’s nice to me as the wife to say no, look, this is the person who is really there. This is the boy who I knew. I still look at him as the boy I met in high school when he was playing all the jokes and really being crazy, pretty crazy,” she said.

“There’s a wild and crazy man in there…”

Please just keep the scissors away from him, Mrs. R.