Surprising no one and looking like he wasn’t enjoying himself one bit, Mitt Romney dutifully announced his 2012 run for the presidency today at New Hampshire pols Doug and Stella Scamman’s farm, with American Legion Post 35 selling hot dogs and Ann Romney’s special recipe chili in the background. Very windy. Very white barn. Very hay bale. Very bucolic. (But delayed for 20 minutes by Fox News coverage of tornados.)
In prepared remarks, Romney said that America had given Obama a fair shake but that the president had “failed.” Now was the time, Romney claimed, to rescue America, the “land of opportunity,” and its “free market” from “Obamacare” and the “Obama economy.”
It’s just the kind of thing you’d expect your average big-fundraising poll-leading pro-business nice-guy Republican frontrunner to say.
But is anyone paying attention?
Nope. Because Sarah Palin is out in the parking lot doing doughnuts in her tour bus.
Even CNN abandoned covering the announcement a few minutes early.
With fantasy candidates and Fox news celebrities turning their heads, Republicans are showing about as much discipline and focus as US Weekly readers. (Maybe less.) And Democrats are beginning to exploit it.
Romney has his weaknesses, no doubt. Everything about his self-presentation telegraphs that he really doesn’t want to be running for president. He utterly lacks media mojo. He doesn’t appeal to the Tea Party, as Palin pointed out in an anti-Romney-care diatribe this morning at Bunker Hill, an event timed precisely to pre-empt Mitt’s announcement. (Palin called it coincidental.)
And he will continue to have trouble with the evangelical right, many of whom (as my interview with Warren Smith last week made clear) continue to fixate on a Romney presidency as a “dangerous” normalization of a “false and dangerous” Mormonism.
But there are no signs that Romney will stop. And the seriousness of his candidacy should force the GOP to do some serious soul searching about their devil’s bargain to hand the soul of the party to Tea Party hotheads, the nakedly anti-Mormon evangelical right, and the Fox News celebrities who cultivate them.
Meanwhile, Romney’s surrogates have been trying to paint him as the safe candidate. Said the host of today’s cookout, Doug Scammam, “When I wake up in the middle of the night I’ll feel safer knowing he is in the White House than I would with anyone else.” That pretty much echoes what George Will said last week: everyone knows Sarah Palin shouldn’t have access to the nuclear arsenal.
But given the excitability of GOP voters, maybe it’s time Mitt abandoned the safe route, took a cue from the evangelicals, and rebranded himself as the “dangerous” candidate.
What would happen if “Danger Mitt” got all fired up, put on an Elvis suit, borrowed Jon Huntsman’s motorcycle, and jumped it over Sarah Palin’s tour bus? Or rode through a tornado?
You think that would work? Maybe it would keep CNN interested?