Picture it: Mitt Romney’s Boston campaign headquarters, in a post-Super Tuesday strategy session. Everyone’s high on Tuesday’s six-state sweep. They’re sitting around a conference table, trading ideas on how to add a dash of pepper-jack ranch dressing to a campaign that’s as blandly risk averse as an iceberg wedge salad.
Primary goals: Knock off Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — and, ultimately, Barack Obama. Suddenly the Romney-campaign brain trust’s lone black strategist — it’s possible there is one — offers this:
“Why not move to Detroit — just for a week?”
The strategist [let’s call him Jim] continues: Hear me out, guys. Mr. Romney, after all, was born in Detroit. His dad ran a major auto company and was a Michigan governor. So he gets the whole Michigan, Detroit, auto, manufacturing, postindustrial thing — never mind the op-ed pieces warning that the government’s bailout of General Motors and Chrysler would “seal their fate.”
Nevertheless, Jim continues: Think about this like consultants. First, let’s identify the problem: Our candidate has an alternative-reality problem. There’s a very real perception in America that, well, Mr. Romney is out of touch with regular folks.
Senior strategist: Really?
Jim: Yeah. At a New Hampshire campaign breakfast in January, Mr. Romney told the audience: “I like being able to fire people” who provide shoddy service. It’s hard to quibble with the sentiment, but coming from Mr. Romney, it just sounded cold. Last month, in Daytona Beach, Fla., when Mr. Romney was asked if he followed racing, he actually said: “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans, but I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”
Then he told a group of NASCAR fans standing in the rain in what appeared to be plastic ponchos: “I like those fancy raincoats you bought — really spring for the big bucks.” Guys, Mr. Romney sounds like a Burberry-Brooks Brothers-Starbucks guy at a moment the country’s mood is more Wal-Mart-Payless-McDonald’s.
Senior strategist: Well, Mitt does like Brooks Brothers’ slim-fit shirts. Ann loves Burberry. And Mormons, for the record, don’t drink coffee.