On an episode of The Office from a few years ago, the desperately insecure character of Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms) hits upon a strategy to ingratiate himself with people, called "personality mirroring." He begins not only repeating what people say to him, but adopting the precise manner and mood of whoever he's talking to. This is pretty much how Mitt Romney went about running for president. A man deeply unsuited to the gladhanding required of a politician made himself into one, through a titanic act of will. And just like when Andy Bernard did it, it was incredibly awkward and off-putting. As the old saying has it, sincerity is the most important thing—if you can fake that, you've got it made. Trouble was, Mitt just couldn't, hard though he might have tried.
And it turns out, Mitt didn't even want to run for president a second time. Veteran reporter Dan Balz is coming out with a book about the 2012 campaign, and he learned of the internal Romney family deliberations. They took a vote, and ten out of twelve Romneys, including Mitt himself, said he shouldn't run. Here's an excerpt:
Mitt Romney had other reasons to think that not running might be the wiser choice. Winning as a moderate from Massachusetts who happened to be Mormon was always going to be difficult. "A lot of the thinking on the part of my brothers and dad was, 'I'm not sure I can win a primary given those dynamics.'" Tagg Romney said. The prospective candidate also knew the sheer physical and family toll another campaign would take. "He's a private person and, push comes to shove, he wants to spend time with his family and enjoy his time with them," his son said. "Even up until the day before he made the announcement, he was looking for excuses to get out of it. If there had been someone who he thought would have made a better president than he, he would gladly have stepped aside."
I guess the gentle voice of America, whispering to him on the wind that it needed his square jaw and concern for the ruling class, was enough to change Mitt's mind. But I wonder what he thinks now? We all tend to absolve ourselves of guilt in situations like this, and I'm guessing Mitt now believes there's nothing he could have done to win. What with Obama showering government goodies on a population of greedy takers, some strategic tinkering wouldn't have made a difference. But if thinks that now, that would mean that he was wrong when he decided that he couldn't leave the Republican nomination to the collection of clowns he ended up beating. It's something of a conundrum. Perhaps late at night, when everyone else is asleep, he rides his car elevator up and down, up and down, replaying the whole campaign in his head.