Mitt Romney called me at work today to talk about his announcement that he is running for president in 2011. I was mentioning the call to someone this afternoon, and the word that came up was “plastic.”
Other’s have put it more gently: Mitt Romney looks every bit the presidential candidate. But what that means is his hair is always perfect, he’s always smiling, he’s tall, dark and handsome.
In other words, he’s a slightly graying Ken doll, with a conservative slant.
When Giuliani stopped by two of the people in the office noticed he didn’t look anyone in the eye when he shook our hands. I was too busy futzing with my video camera, so I can’t say I noticed, but they were sure. It’s interesting to get to meet these people one-on-one, and to interact with them. It’s the beauty of being in New Hampshire.
Several of the people who have been there through several of these cycles talk about how the most successful candidates have charisma, star power. Jon Stewart was talking about it recently when he was on Bill O’Reilly’s program. Bill Clinton, he said, lit up the room. Sarah Palin does the same thing.
Thus far I’ve met Newt, Rudy and Gary Johnson (you don’t know him) and talked with Mitt. If I had to choose based on charisma, I’d go with Mitt.
But he doesn’t have it all. It comes back to being plastic. Mitt has earned a reputation similar to John Kerry, that of a flip-flopper. He laid out excellent rational about why supporting state health care reform similar to Obama’s national health care reform was acceptable today, and he made it clear he would scrap the national plan as soon as he makes it to the White House, but in many conservatives’ eyes he’s too late. He’s switched positions enough to have lost their confidence.
I don’t have a Republican candidate who seems genuine. Mike Huckabee would have been a good example, but he’s opted not to run. Gary Johnson was very genuine, but I don’t see him getting very far. John Huntsman the same thing.
Honestly, I think Palin is the best combination of charisma and authenticity the GOP can offer this year, but I can’t see her winning the general election. Between not knowing her magazine titles and not finishing her gubernatorial term, she just doesn’t seem to have what it takes to lead the country. Besides, she is a Tea Party favorite, but many moderate voters are scared of her. Had she finished out her term in Alaska she would have had a much better shot at 2012, but people need some time to forget that history for her to succeed.
So who’s left? I’m not really sure. No one promising yet, but it’s a long way from November. We’ll see where we end up in 2012.