MICHIGAN: Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up?
The trees are the right height in Michigan? Two Cadillacs?
I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that former Gov. Mitt Romney's not a natural storyteller. Just watch:
Romney has never elaborated on his quasi "Double Rainbow" moment, but I can assert as a Michigander there's no inside joke about our trees or the height of said trees.
We also don't wax philosophical about the lakes, nor can most relate to one couple owning four cars (even if they are American).
Then yesterday, Romney snagged the endorsement of Michigan bad boy, Kid Rock.
Guess Eminem was busy, or else Mr. Romney didn't want the backing of the Real Slim Shady.
So just who is Mitt Romney?
It's a question dogging him still today four years after his unsuccessful bid for president in 2008, and national polls show he's still not connecting with Republicans, even with his hefty donor dollars and solid ground teams.
Since traipsing into our shared home state, Romney's been slammed by some comical -- or just plain damaging -- headlines where he's attempted to appeal to the entire complicated state electorate.
Here's just a few of my recent favorites:
- Gaffes, miscalculations weigh on Romney after Florida win
- Is Mitt Romney Out of Touch?
- Mitt Romney in Michigan: Loving the Trees
- Romney's Wealth "Gaffes" Seem Less About Money, More About Him
Not to mention this little bit of humor comparing the above appearance with a funny scene from the motion picture Anchorman in which a dolt aimlessly assigns love to various objects in the room:
While Romney's "gaffes" make for good headlines, his solid ground game may ultimately save his bacon. Polls show Romney and former Senator Rick Santorum in a virtual dead heat for the key state, an improvement for Romney.
Yet, a loss of his home state once governed by his father, George Romney, would put his candidacy in crisis.
The awkward, even dorky moments tells us something real about Romney: he's more blue blood than blue collar.
Or as one Michigander said Monday, "Rich people will never connect to poor people."
Though God knows, he's tried.
Yet for all his many gifts and natural makings for a nominee, Romney can't trump Santorum's ability to connect with everyone from the folksy farmer to the right-wing radical. Santorum sounds authentic and speaks straight from the heart -- none of which means he'll get the delegates needed to win the nomination.
Speaking strictly about the mechanics of winning the party support, Romney's making the right chess moves -- but losing Michigan could force Republicans to reconsider another top candidate swap-out, since Santorum's religious and social rhetoric won't play well against President Barack Obama.
Even should Romney eke out a win in Michigan, he just don't fit.
As a success story, he should be a natural candidate to chip away at the economic debate and keep driving the campaign narrative toward the failures of the Obama Administration to deliver the sort of high-paying jobs to steady our workforce.
Yet, just watching the above video last week made me question whether he knew how to present his strengths, which clearly not include describing Michigan's beautiful landscape.
Should a candidate resonate anywhere, it's home. No matter how much time has passed since he lived there, a loss in the Great Lakes State would injure him greatly.
Here's one of the Michigan-centric commercials he's been running portraying yet another, softer side of Romney, designed to tug on the old Rust Belt heartstrings.
Unfortunately for Romney, he can show all the home videos and old photos of him growing up and talk about his love for the Detroit Auto Show. At the end of the day, he's still just an awkward politico making obvious attempts to make authentic connections that should feel organic and natural.
There's a sweet spot a presidential candidate must find between being polished and feeling real; it's unclear whether Mr. Romney will ever achieve such a balance.