Skip to comments.Romney builds image as front-runner
Posted on 08/19/2007 8:35:07 PM PDT by restornu
DES MOINES, Iowa - Amid the sweaty crowds at Iowa's sweltering state fair recently, Mitt Romney was a sight to behold shaking hands and ambling toward the Iowa Pork Producers building.
Looking freshly scrubbed in his long-sleeve shirt and creased white trousers, the former Massachusetts governor drew gasps from throngs of reporters awaiting his arrival.
"The man must have no pores," marveled one sodden journalist.
"He can't be human."
Just another meaningless photo op in a presidential election off to a ridiculously early start. But it also encapsulates one of the biggest questions surrounding Romney, who is looking more and more likely to become the Republican presidential nominee:
Is this guy for real?
* * *
The 6-foot-2 multimillionaire is often described as "matinee-idol" handsome. Truth be told, with his angular, tan face, jutting chin, and temples graying just so, the 60-year-old Romney is more soap-opera handsome or game-show-host handsome.
Which is to say Romney's improbably good looks can be off-putting at a time when "authentic" is the new thing in politics.
"With that perfect hair and those bright white teeth, Mitt is exactly the kind of polished politician I'm tired of," said Mark Zlab, a Republican doctor outside of Des Moines. "People want a candidate they can trust to talk truth."
Well maybe, Dr. Zlab. But a lot of solid Iowa Republicans see Romney, a proven problem-solver in the private sector, as the antidote to Washington's problems.
Hours after Zlab dismissed him as a phony, Romney solidified his position as the front-runner in Iowa's crucial first-in-the-nation caucuses by handily winning the GOP presidential straw poll. Never mind that he more or less bought the win, spending at least $2-million, he won.
"Pleased as punch," declared Romney, who is worth about $200-million and actually sounds natural saying things like "gosh" and "pleased as punch."
* * *
You probably know little about Willard Mitt Romney, the wholesome Mormon who has been married 38 years and never in his life had a glass of wine, let alone a hangover.
Based on most polls of Republicans nationally, and in Florida, he's an also-ran rival to Rudy Giuliani and likely candidate Fred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator.
Forget that. Modern political history suggests Romney is the real front-runner. Gradually and methodically, he has built strong campaign organizations and comfortable poll leads where it really matters: Iowa and New Hampshire.
Winning the nomination is all about momentum. Success in those crucial states could catapult Romney to the top in the big contests that follow, South Carolina on Jan. 19 and Florida on Jan. 29.
Early on, Romney secured some of the best political operatives to be had in the Sunshine and Palmetto states, though he is showing little traction in the polls so far.
Unlike Giuliani, John McCain or Thompson, Romney is still unknown to most voters. Florida, where Romney has held 13 public campaign events compared with 200 in Iowa, is so big that poll numbers rarely move without significant TV advertising.
"We wanted to prove the point that when voters got to know Mitt Romney they liked him a lot," national campaign manager Beth Myers said of the heavy emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire. "We focused laserlike on a couple states. I would not say we've played very hard in South Carolina or Florida yet at all."
His standing in Iowa and New Hampshire is partly due to him loaning his campaign $9-million from his personal fortune and spending more than $32-million in the first six months of the year. Giuliani has spent $17-million.
Still, those lead positions also are built on grass roots campaigning and are all the more impressive given the attacks Romney has taken for transforming from moderate Republican to social conservative as he began looking at a run for national office.
The man who once had undocumented Guatemalans cutting his lawn and praised the contributions of such workers to America's economy now campaigns as an immigration hard-liner. The Massachusetts candidate who promised to do more for gay rights than Ted Kennedy, who backed laws restricting gun ownership and firmly supported abortion rights, now casts himself as the strongest social conservative among the leading Republicans.
"Can't you just hear the Democratic convention if he's the nominee? Can't you hear the 30 speeches? 'He was here then, but he's here now. ... He said this then, but he says this now,' " said Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, an underdog presidential candidate who argues Romney's inconsistent positions would doom him in the general election.
Romney repeatedly faces questions about his abortion evolution.
"In the public sphere that's probably my greatest mistake," he told a white-haired questioner in cinder block meeting room in Grundy Center, Iowa, the other day. "The prolife movement that I'm part of wants to change people's hearts and minds, and I'm one of those that got changed."
* * *
The one-term governor selling change does have a track record: a Republican who has won over liberals in deep blue Massachusetts; a product of the private sector who made millions turning around troubled companies like Staples and Domino's Pizza and who took over the 2002 Winter Olympics mired in scandal and debt and turned it into a success.
He understands 2008 will be a tough year for Republicans. In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Romney sounded more like a bridge-building general election candidate than red meat primary contender.
"There's a great commonality of concern in this country. People are very frustrated that Washington is unable to deal with the challenges we face or take advantage of our opportunities, and that concern has reached a crescendo," Romney said. "People are angry and want to see change. It's not Republican, it's not Democrat - it's Washington."
Romney campaigns as a Washington outsider, but the privileged son of former American Motors Corp. chairman George Romney is no political newcomer. His gregarious dad was a moderate governor of Michigan, and at 21 Mitt watched his father's formidable presidential candidacy crumble after saying he had been "brainwashed" into supporting the Vietnam war.
"Gotcha media was just getting going at that point, and there were a couple of campaigns that blew up over things that in retrospect seem awfully small," said Romney, noting that ultimately his father was proven right about American being misled about Vietnam.
Romney is a much more careful and usually predictable stump speaker than his father was. In small gatherings, the former governor sometimes responds to questions instead of people.
In small town Tama, in an area of the state shedding manufacturing jobs, an elderly woman said she worried about all the jobs heading overseas. Romney cheerfully offered that American productivity is rising and that he's a fighter for jobs.
Beneath that unflappable polish, though, come flashes of humanity, if not outright weirdness.
As when he named Battlefield Earth, by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, as his favorite book. Or in Virginia when, for reasons unclear, he answered a question about nuclear power by noting that Adolf Hitler had pioneered liquefied coal.
Romney is still living down a vignette one of his five sons shared with a reporter about Dad strapping their late Irish setter, Seamus, in a carrier to the car roof for a cross-country drive.
Animal rights activists howled, but Romney made no apologies.
"They're not happy that my dog loves fresh air," Romney said.
Oh Romney has vision don’t you worry!
A vision of Rockefeller Republicanism.
He’s not the front-runner. Rudy and Fred Thompson currently occupy that title.
Write that down....
What is Fred's message?
Aw, how special.
Personally I'd go with "used car salesman handsome", but I don't really know the gay lingo.
No way, but I have no say how you think!
Uhhh, just who exactly are these polished politicians? Names please.
Romney’s message is more conservative than Rudy’s. (obvious)
Romney’s message is arguably more socially conservative than Thompson’s. (Thompson’s a federalist)
Romney’s message is more conservative than McCain’s. (immigration)
Is Huckabee’s message more conservative? I haven’t checked. I’ve heard he’s not so much of a fiscal conservative. That’s a dealbreaker, if so.
I am a very ugly person. Last time I was in Iowa everyone was crazy about me.
What Romney doesn’t have is a message. All the good looks, charm & cash means nothing if you don’t have a message.
A John Edwards type.
That's without getting into his past flip-flops.
And that's why he doesn't have a message, because he's unwilling to take a firm stand on anything -- he always has to leave wiggle room so he can change his spin based on who he's addressing.
Well that’s reassuring. I thought that he was an opportunist.
Or, it could be signing the permanent assault weapons ban.
Or maybe signing a socialized medicine plan [complete with taxpayer-funded abortions] that Hillary, John Kerry, Teddy Kennedy and James Carville have raved about.
Or maybe it was the inundation of homosexual propaganda that filled the public schools of Massachusetts during Romney's four years as Governor.
It might have even been his use of his executive power to force the justices of the peace in the Commonwealth to perform gay marriages.
But heck, who knows, there are probably still lots of "mistakes" we'll still find out about.
Conservatives would do well to remember, though, that at the time he did all those things, Mitt Romney defended them vociferously. He didn't consider them to be "mistakes," at least until he faced pro-life, pro-family conservative presidential voters. And, many of them he still defends today, one way or another, if you sift through the ocean of spin from his paid mercenaries.
He's gaining because he doesn't hedge, he goes right to the point and out consevative's the other candidates.
Federalism. Return to basic Constitutional principles.
Illegal immigration, the emerging China threat, fair trade, war on terror.
I don't give a rat's ass about Rudy or Huckabee.
Romney has no credibility on social conservative issues because of his record and past conflicting statements, so the comparison is specious.
Not so. Romney has been ahead of Thompson for several days not at Intrade.
I really want to play poker with that 4.8% betting on Ron Paul.
Do we have a list of their names and addresses?
I have read his replies to those issues, the repies sound more believable than your list of spin. And who is your candidate? That would help us to see where you are coming from and make some comparisons.
Tactics trump policy every time. This guy is the definition of executive excellence. Over the course of a long campaign, that is very hard to beat.
Fredheads weren't disparaging Intrade back when Fred Takes Lead on InTrade! (270 celebratory posts). Now that Fred is in third place, it is a mere gambling site.
Message is in the ear of the beholder — to your question, here are the snapshot messages I hear from the candidates you mentioned (outside of strong national defense, because I believe all the GOP candidates have that message — they just differ on the particular solution):
What is Fred’s message? Smaller federal government
Or Duncan’s? American protectionism (both jobs and borders)
Or Rudy’s? Law and order by any means necessary (I don’t actually support or even believe this message, because of Giuliani’s long history of Constitutional abuses, and the long history of law-breaking among his cronies)
Or Huckabee’s? I haven’t a clue
If I were to summarize the message I personally hear from Romney, it would be “business marketing and efficiency.” That has its pros and cons.
In my view, here are the pros: he would be good at creative marketing/selling ideas (something that W. usually lacks); he would be good at making government work more effectively.
And the cons: he would probably be more likely than even some other politicians to jump on an idea because it’s popular/marketable; and nothing in his predominantly business background has given him a worldview that would lead him to prioritize reining in the power of government. Cut the cost? Yes. Deliver services better and smarter? Yes. But not rein it back to Constitutional principles and turn existing federal powers back to the states. I just don’t see businesspeople thinking that way — the successful businesspeople I know without exception focus on customers, efficiency and growth.
In short, I can definitely see why Romney’s supporters like him. My personal issue is beating back the power of the federal government in every aspect except those enumerated in the Constitution, so he’s not my top candidate.
Romney’s life is a social conservative story. His business made him the only man who ever ran who can do more than talk about limited government. He actually knows how to do it.
Romney doesn’t have a message? And you’re backing Fred Thompson? The guy whose message boils down to, “Well, we’ll talk about it in a little while but don’t get your gander up! I’m gonna make government real small-like when I get off this here golf cart.” *rolls eyes*
Romney’s vision is very clear in my estimation, and that is to make America competitive into the next century. He has addressed the need to lower our corporate taxation rates, which are some of the highest in the world. To bring about tort reform and reverse the trend that now has American corporations spending more money fighting lawsuits than in Research & Development. To reform our immigration system to bring in the best and the brightest—not the uneducated and the illiterate. He has spoken of lowering the capital gains tax to encourage middle class America to invest and save in their future (because social security isn’t going to be around). His energy policy is one of nuclear energy and new methods of refining to reduce dependence on the Middle East, Venezuela, and Mexico. Of controlling spending and ending this nonsense budget shortfall we’ve been running.
He speaks of his three-legged stool: the economy, the military, and the family.
Frankly, I don’t see a candidate with a more clear message.
Well then you and poster #16 should get together, lol.
>Looking freshly scrubbed in his long-sleeve shirt and creased white trousers, the former Massachusetts governor drew gasps from throngs of reporters awaiting his arrival.
this sounds like something pravda writes!
Hey, if you want to ignore his record, there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s all fully documented, if you care enough about the future of the country, and the value of your franchise, to go look for it.
I don’t have a candidate yet. It’s still early.
It's always good to believe whatever a politician tells you than to examine the evidence critically. ::rolleyes::
You should really check out all the issues that Romney continues to hedge on right now, in 2007.
Romney says he opposes "amnesty" but refuses to say what he considers amnesty.
Romney claims to support tax reform but opposes the flat tax and the fair tax. He said he hasn't even studied the fair tax (!!!)
Romney talks tough on foreign policy while saying we need to consult international opinion more and model our charitable efforts after Hezbollah.
Romney says he switched from pro-choice to pro-life because of embryonic stem cell research -- however, he still supports some embryonic stem cell research while opposing other embryonic stem cell research. And he until recently invested in embryonic stem cell research.
Romney said in about a week's time span that he was wrong to be pro-choice, that he used to be pro-choice, and that he was never pro-choice. All the while using the preferred term of the pro-abortion movement ("pro-choice").
Romney opposes gay marriage but continues to support gay domestic partner benefits, special hate crimes status for gays, gay employment non-discrimination.
What the heck kind of muddled message is that?!?
Romney is clearly the best of the moderate wing candidates. The conservative wing needs a candidate, however.
Hey, if you want to “make comparisons,” perhaps you should try comparing Romney 2002 with Romney 2007. It’ll open your eyes...
In the first place, I’d never heard of InTrade until 10 minutes ago, and still have never been to the site.
In the second place, I’m not a FredHead. He’s ok, I guess....but I think I’ve concluded the only candidate I could support with any passion - at least in the primaries - is Newt.
And I forgot the Second Amendment, which Romney claims to support while also supporting a ban on so-called “assault weapons”!
Gosh, your pop quizzes are so easy!
"The message of a liberal trying to convince gullible voters he's conservative," of course...
I’ll just say this. If 4.8% of Republicans really support Ron Paul, I’m going long on tin futures.
I don’t think it’s that simple. It would be a lot easier for Mitt to convince people he was sincere if he wasn’t still straddling the fence on so many issues.
Liberals can never play the role of a conservative effectively, at least to those who are actually paying attention. Too many holes in their story, and they always stumble over their lines.
Romney has a record of over 35 years as a liberal pro-abort. You just don’t squelch that overnight. And, the pressure of a presidential campaign is such that the truth always comes out...especially now, in the age of the internet.
I believe EV has stated he is for Alan Keyes. As a write in, I suppose, as Mr. Keyes is not running to my knowlege.
Write-in campaigns are not my thing.
Well, maybe it would be better to learn up a bit first, and then opine.
Waiting for EV to say who he is for, while he (all with the best conservative intentions), heaps calumny on all viable Republican candidates.
In the first place, Id never heard of InTrade until 10 minutes ago, and still have never been to the site.
“Well, maybe it would be better to learn up a bit first, and then opine.”
All I need to know is that 4.8% of the people there believe Ron Paul is going be the GOP Presidential nominee. That’s enough to tell me that whatever it is, approximately 4.8% of its members offering an opinion on the GOP nomination are:
B) profoundly ill-informed; or
C) relatives of Ron Paul
My “yardstick” is core conservative principle. The inalienable rights to life, liberty and private property. A record of consistent defense of the innocent unborn and opposition to the culture of death in all its forms. Seriousness about, and a proven track record in support of, fundamental tax reform. Opposition to the judicial activists/supremacists and a complete understanding of our founding documents and the principles that make them up. Recognition of the inviolable sovereignty of our borders and our territory. Unflinching commitment to the independence and security of America in the world. An understanding of the Second Amendment and an unwillingness to encroach on it in any way, shape or form. Etc.
Intrade is a futures market, not a poll. 4.8% represents the Intrade market's determination of the probability of Ron Paul winning the nomination. Go to the site, and check it out. It is quite interesting and informative.
He’s an arrogant Constitution hating freak. That’s his message.
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