As the Republican conventions nears, advertising and show biz experts are figuring out how to re-package Mitt Romney. Hollywood handsome, fine head of hair, discreetly gray temples, easy smile, family man, self-made rich, he was the perfect package, especially beside nasty Newt Gingrich, dizzy Michele Bachmann, prickly Rick Santorum, and comic relief Herman Nine-Nine-Nine Cain. Other erstwhile packages included Ron Paul, a kindly if slightly dotty country doctor, and Rick Perry, a great package until he lodged his foot in his mouth. Two other seemingly good packages, who also happened to be good candidates, Jon Huntsman and Buddy Roemer, got little traction for reasons future historians will ponder.
But even before Mitt Romney clinched it, the package had begun to fray. His smile seemed relentless as a clown’s, painted onto his face even when answering serious questions. Claiming to be a great business man, he clammed up about details, built a defense perimeter around himself, talking fast, saying little, while renouncing his achievements as Massachusetts governor. Seemed more like pandering than a change of heart. Who, or what is the guy?
Re-packaging was needed, and it’s happening. Media and set designers are turning the Tampa Bay Times Forum into a friendly living room, lots of doors and staircases, comfy chairs, perhaps a painting—Grandma Moses would be good—maybe even a crackling fireplace.
The plan is for Americans to mistake the package for its contents, which they do every day when buying chocolates, vodka, and perfume. We even buy houses because of “curb appeal,” sometimes learning to our sorrow that looks can be deceiving. It doesn’t hurt much to toss out a vial of perfume, but discarding a house is traumatic. And there’s no way to discard a President. If handsome is not as handsome does, you’re stuck.