Romney 2.0: The Remaking of A GOP Presidential Aspirant

This past Thursday, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and 2008 Republican presidential candidate, formally announced his second bid for the White House by officially declaring his interest in the GOP nomination at a media event in New Hampshire.

Long viewed as the frontrunner among an array of Republican president wannabes that many consider lackluster at best, Romney literally stepped out of the gate, bat in hand, and furiously swinging; unleashing a heap of scathing, blistering attacks on President Obama---frantically blaming him for all that ails not just America but the entire world!

He stridently attacked Obama for the sluggish economy and for the rapid expansion of the role of the federal government; declaring that nearly three years into the president’s four-year term, we have little “more than promises and slogans to go by” and are practically "only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy.”

Chiding Obama for having “failed America,” Romney extended the president a pitiable “F” grade, overall. Which, of itself, ought not to be particularly startling; it is morosely unrealistic to expect someone to speak warmly or glowingly of the accomplishments of the very person presently occupying the position that they most unrelentingly and dreadfully seek!

Besides, considering that most national polls indicate that the state of the economy still resonates as the top issue on the minds of Americans, it is really not surprising that 64-year-old Romney, the son of an ex-governor and himself a notably successful businessman, would make this the centerpiece of his candidacy.

After all, Romney sees his business acumen as the key distinguishing factor between him and Obama. In fact, rarely does he pass up an opportunity to emphasize this point. It is central to the Romney brand. Most of his ardent supporters and conservative pundits incessantly reference his credentials in this regard as unimpeachable evidence of a promising, forward-looking economic policy ethos should he clinch the GOP bid and eventually the White House in 2012.

Granted that Romney’s manifesto remains essentially unaltered from what he unsuccessfully hawked the last go around, he and his Madison Avenue public relations minders invested inordinate amounts of time and money assembling a formidable campaign operation and chiseling a more normalized and inviting persona of Romney the candidate.

Gone is the defining buttoned-down appearance with those all-too-familiar stiff, expensive, well-coordinated Wall Street-type business suits. The new Romney is noticeably and pointedly relaxed and inconspicuously ordinary; even occasionally disheveled. He’s the politician’s politician. His picturesque, “all-American” family (five grown sons and well over a dozen grand-children) is repeatedly purposefully showcased and accentuated.

Truthfully, it’s really not all fluff; Romney has quite a bit going for him during the current election cycle.

His political action committee, Free and Strong America, has wasted no time capitalizing on his strong name recognition and the paucity of credible candidates in the GOP line-up to amass a trove of critical campaign cash.

The money has been flowing in at such a breathtaking speed that Romney is visibly on the road to bettering the $65 million that he raised in campaign contributions during the course of the 2008 GOP presidential nomination bid. Just this last month, his aides announced that the campaign garnered more than $10 million from an all-day phone fundraiser in Las Vegas!

Not to mention, his rather deep private pockets. Lest we forget, Romney loaned his campaign nearly $43 million of his personal funds in 2008 and certainly wouldn’t hesitate doing same should such be warranted.

Question is, are the foregoing truly enough to help Romney secure the GOP nomination? Are Republican voters, a quarter of whom scoff at Romney’s Mormon roots, willing to stand by him for the long haul?

More importantly, will Romney be able to weather the storm that unavoidably awaits over what’s already caricaturized as “Romneycare;” the Massachusetts version of the federal health care reform act enacted while Romney was governor and long-heralded as the pioneering or landmark achievement of his reign?

Romney’s opponents clearly see a devastating opening in the portion of the Massachusetts law that basically amounted to an insurance mandate requiring citizens of the state to secure/maintain health insurance and are chomping at a chance to pounce all over him because of it.

As Sarah Palin demonstrated with her comments last week when she opined that “any mandate coming from government is not a good thing,” Romney’s detractors will in the weeks to come predictably attempt to tie the Massachusetts health care law to his neck like an albatross signaling his lite conservative convictions and inextricably associating him with Obama.

Thus far, Romney’s efforts to douse or downplay the issue with such feeble recantations as his claim that he simply did what he thought was good for the people of Massachusetts, have been ineffectual. He, of course, knows that out-rightly disavowing the policy now would provide more fodder to opponents bent on canonizing him as a flip-flopping politician that would do or say whatever is expedient to get elected.

I do believe that when all is said and done, spurred by the visceral belief that Romney is inauthentic, untrustworthy and/or uninspiring, many Republicans may continue to hold out in wait of a still undeclared wild card candidate with the right pedigree; someone that would swoop down and energize the base in a way that Romney never could. That is the doomsday, nightmarish scenario that the Romney camp would rather not contemplate.

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