Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In his leafy prep days at Michigan’s elite Cranbrook School the Mittster earned a reputation as something of a prankster.

As an underclassman, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate reportedly guided a teacher known as “the bat” into a face-plant with a door. Mitt Romney had opened a series of doors, and then gestured to the next door for the teacher with diminished eyesight, who thought it open, The Washington Post reported.

An obvious question emerges for the Republican Party. Can they see the door coming? Do they get the joke? Or will Republicans look in the mirror on Wednesday morning, Nov. 7, and see a whopping welt on their foreheads, courtesy of the would-be Jester in Chief.

When you follow the campaign moves, the statements and appearances and strategy of the Romney campaign, you can’t help but wonder. Has he seen internal polling showing he can’t win? Is he running the campaign as if it were a high-profile prank? Is he a Manchurian candidate version of Stephen Colbert?

“Let’s see how we can mess with people today,” one imagines Romney saying in a morning meeting with his band of merry-makers.

In just days we will see Romney at the London Olympics where he will support his wife’s dancing horse, Rafalca (for which he took a $77,000 tax deduction in 2010). The horse competes for the gold in dressage, a “sport” I’ve never encountered in a quarter-century of borderline obsessive ESPN-watching.

Michael Dukakis should tape the Romney appearances with Rafalca. It will make Dukakis feel better about riding around in that tank in the 1988 campaign, looking more ready for paint ball or a game of Missile Command on Atari than the White House. Talk about a gift from one former Massachusetts governor to another.

Philadelphia voters were outraged with another politician from the Commonwealth, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who in the 2004 campaign ordered Swiss on his cheesesteak instead of Cheese Whiz. How are the white working-class men, with their fully blossomed guts and NFL-replica jerseys, going to react when they see Romney with a dancing horse?

What was that business at the NAACP convention last week? Romney clearly isn’t winning the African-American vote.

But at least make an effort.

Independent white suburban mothers, the sort of people who like to feel they are tolerant because their kids play with a few Hispanics, want to see presidential candidates try to bridge the racial divides.

George W. Bush did this.

John McCain tried.

But there was Romney last week, actually courting boos with the NAACP for the benefit of the talk-radio crowd, when he could have reached for a few percentage points from the black community by talking more about school choice or saying something meaningful about former Obama chief of staff and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s failure so far to reduce the violence in Chicago where 100,000 residents are believed to be members of gangs.

Then there is the Latino community. A Pew Research poll shows President Barack Obama leading Romney 65 percent to 25 percent with Latinos. Romney’s solution on immigration, and he said it himself: “self-deportation.”

Comedian George Lopez inspired a collective booing from a largely Latino audience Saturday night during his HBO special just by mentioning Romney. Not much in the way of commentary about Romney. Just the name.

Romney’s “rising-tide-lifts-all-boats” pitch about the economy isn’t close to registering with Latino voters. Where is the serious outreach to this vital voting demographic?

Bigger picture, ask yourself this, with no Google searches on your smartphone or references to any newspapers: What is Mitt Romney’s platform? What kind of a guy is he?

OK, fair enough, he’s really good at making money. But think about it. How many people have you met in life who are masterful with building their own wealth who want to help other people get rich, too. Capitalism, the way Romney plays it, is zero-sum game.

Romney is defining himself largely by comparisons to others political figures. Not Obama. Reagan is my hero.

Obama told us exactly what he would do if elected as president — and he did much of it. Reform health care. Immigration-policy change. Detroit is back. Stimulus. Killing Osama bin Laden. Don’t like it? You should have listened more closely in the 2008 campaign.

Name an issue for which Romney would take a political hit, a cause he’d deem worthy of absorbing a punch — or even a position he wouldn’t massage to skirt the spit-screaming of a conservative radio host in a Red State county he couldn’t lose.

It’s almost as if a political junkie-techie constructed an online avatar of a presidential candidate on Second Life or The Sims and released it into the real world as a product known as Mitt Romney.

Dancing horses?

How does he expect us to keep straight faces?