It’s only his second campaign for president but Mitt Romney seems to have been running forever, like that battery-powered toy in the classic commercial, always in motion but never in a straight line.
In a Republican field where too little name recognition is a problem for most candidates, Romney has too much. In 2008, he changed positions on issues as often as shirts and is starting now with a campaign tome titled “No Apologies,” but the dazed voter is likely to be sorting through a laundry list and asking for which?
He looks and sounds right for the White House, his resume is fine (successful business man, governor of a large state) but “Empty Suit” seems to be stamped on his forehead. Among has-beens, never-weres and who-knows-whats, he is the default GOP candidate, reflected by his 17 percent as frontrunner in a motley field.
As Sarah Palin starts her vanity tour at a Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally, Romney will be making his announcement at a New Hampshire farm, where no one will be mistaking him for Mr. Excitement. At this moment, the two symbolically represent the Republican 2012 dilemma—to go all in for Tea Party loony or try to straddle an unlikely coalition that would attract enough Independents to win.
For the latter role Romney comes with baggage—his Massachusetts forerunner to “Obamacare,” his Mormon faith, his invincible blandness. (In 1948, when he seemed sure to beat Harry Truman, someone labeled Thomas E. Dewey “the little man on the wedding cake” and took him down.)
Beyond that, there may be a problem in Mitt Romney’s genes. In 1968, when his father was the frontrunner for the nomination, a fellow Republican remarked, “"Watching George Romney run for President is like watching a duck try to make love [PG version] to a football."
In a year when Trump and Gingrich have been providing comic relief galore, that may not be fatal. But GOP voters will have to go through a lot before they find themselves exhausted enough to turn to Romney’s straight-man Energizer Bunny act.