The Newtification of Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney has a habit of posing for applause before it begins, a quirk that’s made only slightly less awkward by the fact that over the last five years he’s become pretty good at guessing when the applause will come. When he’s just delivered a jab, such as—seizing on President Obama’s suggestion that he’d be a one-term president if he didn’t turn things around—“we’ve come to collect!” there’s a brief moment, before the hands start coming together, where Romney stops, smiles in an “Oh boy, I really said it, didn’t I?” kind of way, drops both arms to his side, and rotates 90 degrees to receive the adulation. The energy isn’t infectious, but his message is sinking in with Iowans—perhaps because he’s gotten a rhetorical makeover from an unlikely source.
Even as his allied super-PAC spent $3.5 million hammering Newt Gingrich on the Iowa airwaves, Romney himself is channeling the former House speaker’s bombast. Belying his reputation as a lily-livered moderate, he packs his speeches with red meat. In Council Bluffs on Sunday, he said that President Obama has no jobs plan (let me Google that for you), and that Obama will create a society that “substitutes envy for ambition.” At one point, he told the crowd about a little old song he’s quite fond of:
“That wonderful hymn, ‘America the Beautiful,’ there’s a stanza that begins, ‘Oh, beautiful, for patriot dreams, that sees beyond the years.’ I believe the founders, the patriots, and their dream of America was not to establish a nation that would last for a little while, but principles that would be enduring,” Romney says. “I believe in those principles. One of those principles was that we would be a merit society. An opportunity society.” The son of the former governor of Michigan and CEO of General Motors pauses to reflect on the Founders’ vision of an America in which it doesn’t matter who your daddy is: “I think President Obama has a different view! I think he looks to Europe and sees the European welfare state as a model. An entitlement society!”
The son of the former Governor of Michigan pauses to reflect on the Founders’ vision of an America in which it doesn’t matter who your daddy is
He hits those points over and over. Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity. Never mind that the founders’ vision of a meritocracy was one in which wealthy first-born sons of affluent, white male landowners were free to compete with each other to see who could accumulate more wealth in an economic system built on forced immobility. The point here is that Romney is speaking Newt Gingrich’s language.