I love a little controversy. Here is the first in a series of candidate profiles I am penning for BlogCritics Magazine. On today’s show – Mitt Romney & Selling Stepford were the focus.

Republicans love a safe bet. Wealthy, telegenic, well-connected and persuasive behind closed doors. They invoke former president Ronald Reagan because he was a winner, not because of policy.

With former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, more than a few insiders have found the perfect candidate. No sticky personal issues. And he possesses the inhuman level of ambition it takes to win.

Romney attended Brigham Young University, then went on to earn his MBA from Harvard Business School and receive his law degree from Harvard Law School. The son of wealthy and influential George Romney, Mitt grew up not unlike Al Gore. George Romney was a lion. He was Chairman of the American Motors Corporation for nearly a decade, then the much beloved Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969.

In February 1968, George Romney conceded defeat in the Republican primary. Nixon was strong, and went on to win the general election. There can be little doubt that Mitt Romney keeps his father’s mistake in mind, every time a question about the necessity of the war in Iraq comes up. George Romney’s abortive campaign for the presidency was all but over after he uttered, “When I came back from Viet Nam [in November 1965], I’d just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get. I no longer believe that it was necessary for us to get involved in South Vietnam to stop Communist aggression in Southeast Asia…”

Moving out from underneath his father’s shadow proved easier for Mitt than it ever was for Al Gore, whose father was a legendary US Senator. Mitt was comfortable in his own skin early. He went to college, grad school, law school, found the right wife, and set out for a life of substantial financial success and public service.

At Bain & Co., then Bain Capital, Romney demonstrated a great aptitude for the art of the deal. He absorbed data and metrics, then churned out successful venture after successful venture. In 1994, his political ambitions came to the fore. He won the Republican nomination for US Senate and challenged Democratic incumbent, Senator Ted Kennedy. Romney ran as a pragmatist, disavowed Reagan-Bush, declared his support for a woman’s right to choose and lost. Big Time.

The formula worked for his gubernatorial bid in 2002. Fresh from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where he served as President & CEO of the Organizing Committee, he had a new role – “fiscal conservative” to add into the mix. As Governor, he presided over economic expansion. Whether or not he deserves any credit, remains a matter of some debate.

By 2005, it became obvious that the picture perfect man had designs on becoming the picture perfect president. With his lovely wife, Ann, at his side and a fleet of of kids and their families, it was all coming together. Known nationally as a moderate, a successful businessman, a good governor, and a prolific fundraiser as the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, the klieg lights were ordered for his presidential campaign. Nevermind that his fundraising success was due more to his association with Anne Dunsmore, than his personal narrative or charisma.

Political success is elusive, even for a perfect candidate. Romney’s perceived flip-flops on abortion and gay rights have damaged him in some corners. His fiscal record is not as clear as he would have Laffer disciples believe. He speaks eloquently of faith, though he shares little in common with the average Christian. More significantly, Romney is aided by having Alex Castellanos aboard as the media strategist. Spokesman Kevin Madden is quick, respected, and a look-alike for Romney. Drive-by voters may not even be able to tell the difference between the two men. Unpaid advisers have been quick to shun the spotlight and instead refer many reporters to Madden.

The perfect candidacy of Mitt Romney is complicated to evaluate. On first glance, he is the Republican Al Gore. But today, he invokes comparisons to Jon Corzine. Spending approximately $17 million of his own money to keep ads on the air, and keep a hold in Iowa and New Hampshire seems more an exercise of vanity than of conviction. Rumors of his supporters receiving push polls, only to find some of the”supporters” were actually staff, raises questions about integrity.

Perception becomes the political reality. Romney needs to understand what “authenticity” means to the average voter. Having a perfect life, perfect banking, perfect wife, perfect kids, perfect advisers, and the perfectly calculated response filtered through the perfect lawyers does not inspire organic. Voters want, and deserve, more than a caketopper couple. Americans need a president who is confident enough to shoot from the hip when it is necessary. A man who has tangible emotions. Part of George Walker Bush’s success is based on his ability to convey, authentically, the collective expression of the American people. (That he seems hopelessly out of touch today only increases his humanity, his organic nature is written on his face.)

Mitt Romney looks the part. To win women’s vote, he will have to convince us that we are all equal – not that he wants a nation of Stepford Wives who politely tilt their head and clap their approval quietly. Does he understand that the President of the United States must lead, not just manage? Bringing in a focus group, or a bunch of lawyers and accountants will not solve any real problems. The President has to lead a fractured House of Representatives, and a belligerent Senate. A President must command the respect of our allies, adversaries and enemies. But first, he must capture the hearts, minds and votes of the American people.

Can Mitt accept a few inconvenient truths? America is not perfect, her people are flawed and beautiful. America is bold, emotive, wild, complex and subject to no international body, no man but to our own Constitution.

The point, folks, is that it is all a little “too” perfect. His success, however impressive, is suited for managing – not leading. He might make the best Secretary of the Treasury.

He has the “Slick” moniker attached to him. Voters want to know that Romney is REAL – not going after the presidency to punch a hole in his dance card. The future of the Republic isn’t a Rich Man’s Toy.

The attacks aren’t petty – Romney and his campaign have marketed him as the good looking, athletic guy. They are driving that train. As evidenced by his TV ad where he’s running in his shorts along a tree lined road.

I agree, the religion issue may be sticky – but it has yet to gain real traction. I will say this, if it proves out that his campaign or one of his advisers green-lighted the push polls in Iowa & New Hampshire — what might have been a non-issue will quickly become the Only Issue.

I will be writing a follow up on the push poll story, with a lot of sources that indicate a coming storm. As of today though – the storm is still on a distant horizon and Team Romney is trying to run out the clock.

— Media Lizzy


Media Lizzy,

It’s sounds from that last comment that you are already convinced that he or his campaign is guilty of instigating the whole “push-polling” fiasco, and seem to imply that they are just hoping to have the nomination wrapped up before it come out. Do you have evidence that this evidence exists? In other words, on what basis do you form your conclusion that they were the culprits? If there is no evidence yet (though it is only a matter of time, right?), then aren’t they assumed innocent until proven otherwise? Predictions based on nothing are called fantasies, simple as that. But that’s just my opinion, I suppose.

#9 — November 27, 2007 @ 12:20PM — Media Lizzy [URL]

FroFreak –
I drew no conclusions about guilt or innocence. There has been a great deal of reporting on the push polls from reputable and very reliable sources.

Politics is rarely about fairness. And perceptions drive the day. Noting that there may be a coming political storm indicates nothing, other than – a storm is coming.

As I said, a follow up column with the best obtainable version of the truth is forthcoming. So stay tuned.

#10 — November 27, 2007 @ 17:36PM — Mary

You are incorrect when you say that Mitt Romney lost to Ted Kennedy “big time.” The election was as close as Ted Kennedy ever came to losing his Senate seat, and featured some nasty last minute campaign dirty tricks by some Romney supporters. I remember walking down a street in the Boston suburb I was living in at the time and seeing a scurrilous caricature of Kennedy pasted onto the sides of every mail box I passed.

#11 — November 27, 2007 @ 21:17PM — Raymond Takashi Swenson [URL]

A lot of people are envious of perfection. Handsome, rich, smart, religious, a good dad, a good grandfather, a proven leader. How awful for all you imperfect people who covet what he has earned through his intelligence and hard work and faithfulness to his family and church.

Your column reminds me of the governor who was notified of the death of his state’s senator. When the man he appointed to fill the seat was called a stupid jackass, the governor responded that the jackasses in his state deserved to be represented in Congress. Obviously, you are searching for a jackass to represent you in the White House.

#12 — November 27, 2007 @ 21:38PM — Media Lizzy [URL]

Au contraire. What I want is a real leader, with real depth. The next president needs more than an impressive CV and great looks. He/She must possess authentic gravitas, when it comes to matters of military affairs – national security – homeland security – working with the effectively – an understanding of how the process really works. Platitudes are not sufficient.

Financial success does not a president make. And purchasing success is far different than earning it.

Give me Joe Biden. John McCain. What does Mitt Romney know of human rights issues, other than his blind trust saw fit to invest in the Sudan? What does Mitt Romney know of the day to day struggles of the average Soldier/Sailor/Airman/Marine? Where was Mitt Romney when he received his deferment, while men like John McCain were doing real service to the cause of freedom? What does Mitt Romney know about life as a single mother, or more pointedly – a Gold Star Family?

Absolutely nothing. If you equate good looks and wealth with making the best candidate for president, you are certainly entitled to that opinion. But I want a president with real experience. And Mitt Romney is short on that.

#13 — November 27, 2007 @ 22:07PM — Baronius

See, Lizzy, that’s what we were all digging for from you. It’s not his strong style that bothers you; it’s his weak substance. We can debate whether the man lacks gravitas. We were getting nowhere debating whether he looks good.

#14 — November 27, 2007 @ 22:16PM — Dave Nalle [URL]

I’m just against Romney because he’s a Mormon. Bad enough I’ll probably have to vote for a christian, but even that’s better than a goofy cultist.


#15 — November 27, 2007 @ 22:22PM — Media Lizzy [URL]

Thanks, Baronius. Part of my style – occasionally – is to lay down the bait. I love to watch as people make assumptions and defend the absurd. For example, how Mitt Romney’s looks and financial prowess are actually substantive reasons that qualify him to lead the United States – and become the most powerful man on earth.

If Mitt Romney can make a real argument about why he, more than any other, is qualified to handle Iran, Iraq, Syria, the creation of a Palestinian state, North Korea, the rise of China, OPEC, global warming, domestic spending, a fractured US House and Senate, nominate qualified federal judges, and handle Vladmir Putin, end the crisis in Darfur, and forcefully argue for meeting the Milennium Development Goals – then fine, he has a right to run. So far, he’s been all veneer – and no teeth.

#16 — November 28, 2007 @ 01:28AM — Jon H.

Media Lizzy,

The very things you put forth as deficits in Mr. Romney are actually there in abundance–he has them. You just have not done your homework far and wide enough. Your accessments are off as well–they seem like wishful thinking on your part. You blew it!

Now go out and finish your research. Here’s a hint…most of what you missed comes from people who are close to Mr. Romney or did some quality face-to-face with him. And guess what… some are even democrats.

#17 — November 28, 2007 @ 01:39AM — Caroline [URL]

I’m tired of all this Mormon talk, I just Love Mr. Mitt Romney, he is still my squeaky clean, moral, righteous US President the whole world will ever meet and know. Let us vote for him, he brings hope for a parent like me that there is a way to reach the goal of perfection in marriage and family.

#18 — November 28, 2007 @ 02:02AM — Dave Nalle [URL]

I’m about 900% sure that ‘moral righteousness’ is about the last thing I’m looking for in a President.