… Using This One Weird Trick! It seems as if everybody’s down on the idea of Mitt Romney running for president again. Even establishment Republicans who aren’t part of the vast Bush claque seem to be hostile. President Obama’s aides mocked Romney’s interest in income inequality, per Politico:
“Romney is 47 percent concerned about inequality,” the president’s 2012 campaign press secretary, Ben LaBolt, said in an email. “The other 53 percent of him would rather polish his car elevators.” …
“Romney’s problem has always been really about believability and connection with the challenges of average Americans,” said Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager. “It’s simply never going to be believable to go from car elevators, off-shore accounts and his famous 47 percent comment to the populist income equality warrior.”…
So Romney’s the underdog. If he runs, Ross Douthat notes, it will be as an outsider. But is that such a bad position? After all, there’s one obvious, simple move Romney could make to turn the mockery around, jujutsu style, in a way that would give him a decent outsider’s chance.
Romney could live like an average person.
The median income in Massachusetts is about $67,000. Would it be impossible for the Romneys to actually live on that? Lots of Americans do. Romney doesn’t have any more kids to put through college. He owns his own home(s). He could pick one (a smaller, low-maintenance one) and stay away from the others.
It would be painful — but that, of course, is the point. Romney might have to shop at Trader Joe’s. Great press! He could work on his small talk, maybe even learn something. It wouldn’t be like a movie star living on food stamps for a week. It’s not a diet. He’d have to make it until November, 2016.
Commentators would say it was a stunt, and they’d be right. So what? Voters often like stunts — remember Lawton Chiles walking across Florida? They especially like stunts when there is a genuine, meaningful subtext — and in this case, there are two: a) Romney doing penance for his 2012 screwups, and b) Romney demonstrating that he knows (or has learned) how Americans live and is serious about his new economic platform. It’s the sort of thing consultant Mike Murphy might dream up if Murphy weren’t already working for Jeb.**
Of course, Romney wouldn’t really be living like a median American. The aides who brought
coffee refreshments *** and position papers to his seemingly humble abode would probably not be living on $67,000 a year. It would cost him more than $67,000 just to set the whole experiment up. There would be a few private plane rides, motorcades, banquets, etc. Romney’s bank accounts would still be there. He could quit anytime. But again, so what? Voters would know he had special advantages. But they’d also know the stunt would still pinch. And they’d appreciate the effort. Reporters could be relied on to keep Romney at least mostly honest, catching him if he goes for any clandestine midnight rides up and down car elevators.
If Romney turned to his church for support — well, that’s a feature, not a bug, no?
It would all be a pretty good story, if you think about it: Former high-rolling hotshot forced to humble himself and claw his way back against a new self-anointed prince (Jeb). Redemption! I’m sure there is a Hollywood movie or two with this plot, probably starring Sean Connery. (Help me out here.) The more Romney’s party’s establishment turned on him, the more delicious the dramatic tension. In the final scene he could destroy Jeb in debate with a furious volley of zingers! Any Romney traction would drive Bush’s royal court crazy, which would alone be worth it.
I can give him some tips on where to buy cheap shirts.
** — If televised it could be the best reality show since Paris Hilton’s My New BFF, though that would probably be too stunty for Romney’s purpose. Maybe not, though. Think the humanizing doc “Mitt,” except in real time, or close to it. He could talk a lot of policy to make it relevant.
*** — An alert tweeter notes that Romney does not drink coffee. That could save some money right there.