After morphing into a Tea Party zealot to win nomination, the GOP choice is in the kind of tricky transition described by JFK while running against Nixon in 1960: “It must be hard getting up every morning trying to decide who you’re going to be that day.”
Nixon lost then but won eight years later by virtually erasing himself to edge out disorganized Democrats. Covering his campaign, Gloria Steinem wrote: “When Nixon is alone in a room, is anyone there?”
This year, running against a well-organized and well-heeled White House machine won’t be that easy. To win moderates in his own party and Independents, Mitt Romney will have to persuade them he is more than a not-Obama.
For the most robotic and least-loved Republican since Nixon, that challenge takes us into psychiatric territory first being explored back then—-the concept of the False Self.
In 1960, D. W. Winnicott described authentic awareness of "all-out personal aliveness" or "feeling real" as a True Self. In contrast, the False Self was designed to hide behind a "polite and mannered attitude," concealing emotional deficits in those unable to feel spontaneous, alive or real to themselves in any part of their lives, yet managing to put on an outward "show of being real."
Now, the False Self that GOP primary voters have been sensing in Mitt Romney will be put to a severe test. Can he persuade less ideological Americans that there is a real person behind that Wizard of Ooze screen?
In contrast, during his run in 2008, Barack Obama was worried about losing his own authenticity, telling Tim Russert with a worried smile that his wife and friends thought he was still there behind all the hype and admitting on 60 Minutes that the “attempt to airbrush your life...is exhausting.”
By November, voters will have had a chance to decide who and what is real.
Update: Romney vows, if elected, to build the Keystone pipeline to move oil deposits from Canada to the Texas coast that has been delayed by Obama.
"I will build that pipeline if I have to do it myself," he tells Republican leaders in Arizona.
Will that be by Bain Capital or from his personal funds?