Slouching Towards Tampa (Truckin' edition)

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If he were put on an antique diving helmet and a gorilla suit and recite the Gettysburg Address from a diving board forty-three feet above a wading pool filled with piranhas, Mitt Romney still wouldn’t be the slightest bit interesting. Except, perhaps, to Jim Wilson, a retired insurance salesman whose fascination with Romney approaches idolatry, as noted in a previous edition of this column.

For reasons known only to Wilson, his Maker and possibly his therapist, back in 2011 the man began following the candidate all over the country, something even the Romney clan – wife Ann and sons Tagg, Tugg, Borg, Blip and Fauntleroy – seem reluctant to do. Wilson’s admiration was aptly characterized by the New York Times as “fanatical” in a May profile. Among other things, the article amusingly revealed the campaign’s initial suspicions about the man:

The Romney campaign kept its distance from him at first. Aides to Mr. Romney, nervous that a suddenly ubiquitous fan might prove a liability, went so far as to vet him. Finding nothing alarming, they began to see an upside to his doggedness and free labor.

Uh-huh. The “upside” being that despite Romney’s clearly absolute dearth of charisma, the campaign can always point to Wilson as evidence that the candidate is capable of some sort of quasi-human quasi-connection. In a reassuring sign of prudence, however, Wilson seems to realize that a face-to-face meeting with his hero just might kill the magic:

For many campaign volunteers, the reward for long hours is face time with the candidate. Mr. Wilson seems uninterested, repeatedly turning down invitations to meet with Mr. Romney backstage at events. They mostly exchange waves.

Wilson’s ’98 GMC 1500 already had a ton of miles on it when he decided to add another 40,000 or so by pointlessly tailing Romney, with the intended last stop being Romney’s inauguration: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Truckin’ edition)

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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.” Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (With Friends Like These edition)

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