We should have known four years ago when he asked, "Who let the dogs out?," then woofed. Posing for a photo with a bunch of Black schoolchildren in 2008, the presidential hopeful (yep, then, too) quoted an annoying hip-hop single for no apparent reason whatsoever, then tried to bark, kinda. Mitt Romney really wants to impress people.
I was reminded of this on Monday when Romney flubbed his latest attempt to look cool. Campaigning (unsuccessfully) in Alabama via sports-talk radio, Romney was asked about where NFL free agent quarterback Peyton Manning might land. The former Massachusetts governor and Patriots fan voiced his hope that Manning wouldn't sign with New England (because that's somehow possible? I digress). But both the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets were also rumored to be in the mix for his services, so Romney chimed in with this:
"I've got a lot of good friends - the owner of the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets - both owners are friends of mine."
F.O.M., in this case could also stand for Funders of Mitt. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Jets owner Woody Johnson are also heavy contributors to both Romney's campaign and the super-PAC supporting him, Restore Our Future. That said, taking their money is a lot different than trying to steal their shine.
Responding to me Tuesday on Twitter, Salon's Alex Pareene put it well, "guessing it's partly boardroom mentality," that Romney "seeks to impress rather than 'connect.'" That'd fit in with observation that Romney is elitist, off-putting, and even robotic has been made ad nauseum, but is that really it? But is this kind of shameless name-dropping really, as some are putting it, just calling attention to his wealth?
As eager to please as Romney is with his variance on policy, he seems unafraid to continue stepping in this hole. He has also found occasion to mention, almost as non-sequiturs, his NASCAR owner buddies and his wife's Cadillacs. (The Cadillac boast, in a particular, wouldn't have been out of place in a hip-hop song.) With baseball season around the corner, it stands to reason he'll name-drop one of their owners, also.
That's why I'm not sure this is all about him being aloof due to his astronomical wealth. Ironically, this to-the-manor-born guy is carrying himself more like the nouveau-riche, like a Jay Gatsby, as if he has some need to impress people by flossing. He's not just reminding Americans that he's rich, but also how rich and more importantly, how cool (sports owners!) his friends are. Seems as though this approach is more suited to the superficial courting of a love interest, not the wooing of voters in a party that purports to represent the Real Americans™ out there.
Romney finished third in both the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday, after patronizing Southerners with forced echoes of "y'all," chatter about grits -- and worst of all, a belief that would work. (His campaign doesn't want you to remember that he said as much.) And with his wins in Hawaii and American Samoa, the math even went his way last night.
But Romney cannot just romance calculators here. If he's the nominee, he's going to need actual voters to fall in love with him, also. As desperate as he seems to make this happen, flossing isn't a good look.