"This has been a good day for me," is what Mitt Romney said Tuesday in response to Rick Santorum's emotional exit, at least for now, from presidential politics.
But some campaign aids are worried that with Santorum out of the race, voters will see more of Romney's sometimes stiff personality.
Politico's Mike Allen told Here & Now's Robin Young that the likability issue is the "deepest hole" Romney's in right now.
Allen says for Romney to succeed, the race needs to be about Barack Obama.
"If Mitt Romney's being nickled and dimed about his dog and his Swiss campaign account," it's not going to turn out well for him, Allen said.
Now Romney's campaign is trying to present another look at the GOP hopeful.
Book Excerpt: 'Inside the Circus'
By: Mike Allen and Evan Thomas
Politicians are famously self-pitying. During Watergate, Richard Nixon was said to talk to
the portraits in the White House. But Romney does not brood. “He doesn’t have a culture
of complaint. He doesn’t have that as part of his makeup,” said the adviser. “He lives in a
world of what has happened, what is to happen, and how can I change things to make them
happen in a way that I would like them to.” The adviser went on: “Santorum is a typical
career politician. He lives in a world of complaints, in the world of injury, in the world of
victimhood. And by the way, it’s one of the things Romney likes least about Santorum. I
would say the motto of the Romney campaign, even though they wouldn’t acknowledge it,
is there’s no crying in baseball.”
A theory has grown up among some campaign staff that Romney is haunted by his
father. In 1968, then Michigan governor Romney, running for the GOP nomination at the
height of the unpopular Vietnam War, told reporters that he had been “brainwashed”
by a military briefing in Saigon. The gaffe effectively ended Romney senior’s campaign.
Mitt Romney’s tendency to make verbal slips is a subconscious repetition of his father’s
mistakes, or so the theory goes. (The fact that Romney keeps a campaign poster from his
father’s 1968 campaign in his office and on the bus is cited as evidence.) Romney, the too-
perfect son, is also compared to George W. Bush trying to live up to or surpass his famous
father. “Horseshit, completely ridiculous,” says an adviser who is close to both Romney
and the Bushes. “He did not have the tortured father-son relationship that George W. had,
because Mitt was the successful son. They have none of that drama of the Bushes.”
Romney prides himself on coolheaded objectivity, mixed with a certain realism-pessimism
born of experience in the business world and his family’s long flight from religious
persecution. He does not shy away from bad news or criticism in the press. Some
politicians say (or pretend) that they do not read the papers, but Romney is constantly
on his iPad. (He is like Barack Obama in this respect; Obama is the first president to read
the blogs.) He reads The New York Times, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal,
and a host of news digests and summaries. “It’s sick how much news he reads,” said an
adviser. “It’s too much goddamned news.”
On the plane or the campaign bus, Romney is constantly on a phone usually kept by his
body man, Garrett Jackson. “He calls a lot of people to talk about ‘What are you seeing in the
economy? What are you seeing in the bond market? What are you seeing in your business
and how are your orders and what does the supply chain look like?’ It seems to be a bit of
a search for data, but I’m not sure what the data is relevant to,” says an adviser who has
traveled with him. “He talks to friends, acquaintances, money guys, but I’ve never heard
him make a call and say, ‘I need you to host a fund-raiser, or can I count on you for 250
grand?’ He’ll always ask about something substantive and then say, ‘I hope I can count on
your help,’ or ‘I appreciate your help,’ if somebody’s already helping us.”
Romney will listen to anyone or give the appearance of listening (in his head he assigns
differing values to the advice, based on his estimate of the wisdom of the adviser). But
when he wants to relax or unwind, he wants to be with his family, particularly his wife,
Ann. Because she suffers from multiple sclerosis and tires easily, Ann cannot travel
constantly and is usually limited to two events a day. But Romney’s staff keeps her as close
as possible to the candidate. The reason is that he depends on her.
“There’s no beginning and no end to the power of their relationship, and it’s complete
dependence both ways,” a longtime Romney adviser told us. This adviser, who has seen
many high-level political marriages up close, said, “I have rarely seen a political marriage
that is as functional, as equivalent, and as powerful as the Romneys’. The thing about her
is she isn’t trying to manipulate him and she isn’t trying to manipulate the staff. She is
unreservedly for him, and she’s the honest sounding board, and she’s also the one who will
say to someone, ‘He’s way, way tired. That’s not good. You need to make an adjustment so
he can sleep in an extra hour.’”
There doesn’t seem to be much question that Romney is a good family man. Sons of
political figures sometimes struggle, but Romney’s own sons seem to be both self-sufficient
and close to their father. The Romneys actually do seem to be taken straight from a 1950s
TV series—one adviser calls Romney “Ward Cleaver, the ultimate white guy.” For a great
mass of voters nostalgic to return to simpler and more prosperous times, Romney should
fit the bill.
But somehow, at least thus far, he doesn’t. The story of his dog Seamus seems to be
symbolic of his woes. By now, columnists and late-night comics have yukked it up
repeatedly over the story of Romney strapping his dog to the roof of the station wagon as
the family of seven (two adults, five kids) headed out on a summer vacation trip to their
family cottage on Lake Huron during the early 1980s. The trip took twelve hours, and up
on the roof the dog, apparently, could not contain himself. Two of the sons in the back were
the first to notice the result streaming down the rear window. (“Oh, gross!”)
Overlooked in the clucking over the incident is the fact that the dog was in a crate,
probably little different from the dog kennels used to transport animals in the cold-storage
compartments of airplanes. Romney had erected a barrier to shield the family pet from the
wind. Romney, the family man heading to the lake, didn’t seem heartless at the time. But
politics is a heartless business.
Excerpted from POLITICO Playbook 2012: Inside the Circus by Mike Allen and Evan Thomas Copyright © 2012 by
Mike Allen and Evan Thomas. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
- Mike Allen, chief White House correspondent for Politico, co-author of "Inside the Circus"
This segment aired on April 11, 2012.