January 4, 2008

Family, Romney-Style

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IOWA CITY, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 1—Mitt Romney had already been hit from behind by Mike Huckabee in the Battle of the Former Governors, trailing in the polls for Iowa’s Republican caucuses by as much as 14 percentage points.

On Sunday, at the famous Hamburg Inn in Iowa City—a charming and much flatter college town than Ithaca—Romney didn’t look it. He looked like he owned the world, or at least wanted to. Ownership is a cornerstone of Romney’s campaign. At this stump speech, he touted his experience in making his consulting company and the Utah Olympics “successful.” Some voters are afraid of incompetence in Washington, and perhaps rightly believe that only a former business consultant can truly run the Executive Branch.

“I think people vote for the future, not for the past,” Romney said, in a line he has repeated often in the final stretch of his Iowa campaign. He wants to be different from Bush, but non-Republican voters might find this claim dubious. Ownership society, privatization, support for the war in Iraq, God… the difference, perhaps, is in the hair-style.

If Romney’s claims are made quite seriously, he is perhaps undermined by his campaign bus, which is splashed with huge red letters that say “The Mitt Mobile,” and a cheesy, Disney-style map of the U.S. covered with superimposed graphics—most notably what looks like a very large and very empty Lower Manhattan. The President would approve.

The all-important kick-off theme for this stump speech was family. Mitt began by gushing about his wife Ann for a full minute and a half, and declared he was about faith and family. And while God’s vote has been tough to predict, the Romney family’s leanings are pretty clear: Ann Romney, Ben Romney, Craig Romney, Josh Romney, Matt Romney, and Tagg Romney are all pretty big fans of their husband and dad. This is pretty evident from their blog, which I prefer to call the “Can You Believe the 5 Romney Boys Support Mitt?!” blog. In other news, Bill supports Hillary.

At the event in Iowa City, Romney staff handed out buttons that said “Bring 5 for Mitt,” as part of a push for more committed Iowa voters to recruit their undecided friends to caucus. I thought this was pretty lame, because it did not rhyme. What about, “Bring 5, keep Mitt alive”? Or, “Mitt is totally (not) full of…” One pundit says Mitt had that one coming to him. In fact, it is a topic of campaign analysis that could prove quite entertaining as Mitt moves past this Iowa bit…