Election 2012: Romney May Face Lasting Damage from New Hampshire Campaign
By Philip Rucker
January 10, 2012
MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Mitt Romney who campaigned across New Hampshire the past few days entered the workforce “at the bottom,” feared getting “a pink slip,” doesn’t own four houses (although he thinks “that’s a good idea”) and “never imagined” he would run for office because, as he put it, “I was just a high school kid like everybody else with skinny legs.”
There’s nothing wholly false about the ways Romney has been describing himself. But the descriptions don’t ring true, either.
As Romney heads to South Carolina hoping to polish off his rivals after Tuesday’s primary victory, there may be lasting damage from his week of campaigning in New Hampshire. In trying to correct a weakness — some critics have called it inauthenticity — Romney may have only amplified it. …
America knows Romney not as an aw-shucks, reluctant citizen-politician but as a conscientious scion who worshiped his father, George, the three-term Michigan governor and onetime presidential candidate who long ago groomed young Mitt for high office. “He was teaching me how to get out there,” Romney told Time in 2007.
Around the edges in New Hampshire this past week, the former Massachusetts governor tried to convey everyman sensibilities and experiences. But to voters who already had judged Romney a slippery, stiff and distant politician, the reality he tried to create here didn’t seem real. …
At times, Romney has exaggerated. In 2007, he said during a New Hampshire campaign stop: “I purchased a gun when I was a young man. I’ve been a hunter pretty much all my life.” But, as his spokesman later clarified, Romney had hunted only twice: for rabbits in Idaho with some cousins when he was a teenager and for quail with Republican donors at a Georgia game preserve in 2006.
Aubrey Immelman, director of the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics at St. John’s University in Minnesota, said Romney may be overcompensating for his inability to connect with regular people.
“Romney is neither an introvert nor an extrovert,” said Immelman, who has done personality studies of elected leaders including former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. “The key is in his conscientiousness. … People that are highly conscientious are just not good campaigners. He might be a good executive — and he may end up being a fine president — but campaigning is his Achilles’ heel.” …