This, making the rounds today, has turned into something of a prop for those who either see Mitt Romney as a serial panderer or, for lack of a better word, weird. (People have compared it to this Steve Carrell bit from Anchorman and even Coneheads.)
Here’s the thing: This is Romney being Romney. He really is from Michigan. His father really ran a car company. OK, he probably doesn’t care too much about the height of trees, but he is being awkward in a genuine way. The relentlessly upbeat thing isn’t an act. And for a guy who gets stereotyped as robotic and over-produced, you might think it might not be a bad thing. As Mike Murphy and Mike Crowley write, Romney’s better off not trying to to reinvent himself.
Calvin Trillin wrote a great piece for The New Yorker last month imagining President Romney using his Iowa State Fair schtick on the global stage:
The moment President Romney entered the room where the opening reception of his first G-8 summit was being held, he was approached by a small man who shook his hand and said, “Je suis Nicolas Sarkozy.”
“Are you of French-Canadian origin?” President Romney said, smiling broadly.
“I am French,” Sarkozy replied, looking somewhat puzzled. “I am, in fact, the President of France.”
“Congratulations,” President Romney said. “Lipstick contains a substance made from fish scales.”
This stuff is funny. If he was actually socially helpless, he probably wouldn’t have been able to run a major company or convince people to give him millions of dollars in campaign checks. Why make his goofy side into some kind of handicap?