Mitt Romney’s Tousled Hair

The Globe's early look at the candidate's changed style

Just over two months out from the midterms and The Boston Globe is already restlessly fixating on 2012. Yep, the headline on that front page story just to the left of those pretty gold bars this morning reads “A 25-state midterm swing for Romney.” Subhead: “Former governor positioned for ’12.”

Maybe it’s just that I was looking forward to a two-week post-midterms vacation, but it all feels like too much too soon, as if the Globe is hanging the mistletoe while we’re still dying the Easter eggs. And while decking the halls with tidbits on financing and pit stops, Sasha Issenberg’s story—a dishy and insidery thousand words ostensibly about Romney’s new two-month, twenty-five state tour—suggests we’re about to head into permanent political Christmas:

The two-month itinerary will launch a cycle of politicking for Republican midterm election candidates that will make Romney one of the nation’s most visible politicians in a year when he is not on the ballot.


The Romney story is not unexpected. He did kick off a tour, and that’s newsworthy, I suppose. And folks are always interested in a ballot. The next presidential election has been a hot topic since the 2008 primaries (remember the “this could set Hillary up for 2012” meme) and the Globe’s local boy is as much a GOP frontrunner as he was two years ago, perhaps even more so.

What is a little unexpected—and more than a little entertaining—is Issenberg’s approach. This is light-as-a-feather, Sunday magazine stuff, deliciously so. Rather than boring into Romney’s political positions, which are glossed over in a quick rudimentary graf, Issenberg delves in to what he says might be Romney’s most dramatic reinvention:

Romney is seeking to come across as more easygoing and accessible than the formally dressed, perfectly coiffed, carefully rehearsed candidate of the last campaign.

After that grabber, it isn’t long before we’re into a kind of GQ-lite profile of a Matthew McConaughey-type.

New Hampshire is the place Romney’s advisers and allies say they see Mitt at rest: a wearer of jeans and driver of a black 2003 Chevy Silverado pickup truck. Some of them are hoping that Romney’s laid-back summer lifestyle will survive Labor Day and endure onto the campaign trail, helping to erase the impression many voters have had of a wealthy candidate almost animatronically focused on winning.


“That’s the Mitt Romney that I know and really enjoy — not the guy they say is too perfect, too stiff,’’ said Ron Kaufman, a longtime Romney adviser who visited him this summer. “The public image of a lot of these folks in office are often 100 degrees out of whack with reality.’’

I keep envisioning McConaughey bestie Lance Armstrong insisting, “Matthew’s more than just a set of abs, he’s a thinker, a reader, a philosopher; the public have got it completely wrong.”

And lest you should be left wondering what the square-jawed Chevy-driver wears on his book tour…

In early July, Romney marched in Wolfeboro’s Fourth of July parade in jeans and a checked shirt, his hair tousled, a combination that became something of a uniform on his spring book tour. A few days later, he invited national and local political reporters to his Wolfeboro home for an off-the-record barbecue.

And where does Massachusetts other laid-back jean-wearing hunk of a politician fit in all this?

Romney appears to favor the regular-guy New England iconography of Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, whom he hosted for dinner in Wolfeboro this summer (along with their wives).

…When asked if there was anything he could learn from Brown, Romney quipped, “Where to buy a good barn jacket — and I’ve got a truck.’’

Will voters see more of the vehicle? “Not without my being accused of copying Scott,’’ Romney said, with a laugh.

Oh, Mitt.

If Bostonians have to put up with this kind of thing for a year, you’d forgive them for dumping their subscriptions into the harbor.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.