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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The many faces of Mitt

Mitt Romney's handlers like to call him the anti-Michael Vick, but they may need to slap down comparisons to another Michael -- Dukakis.

Robert Draper's New York Times profile of one former Massachusetts governor draws memories of an earlier version who ran for the presidency under the tag line it's not about ideology, it's about competence.

It's not a new theme, as a quick Google search will attest. Both former governors are cool managers, more into the nuts and bolts of deal-making rather than the white-hot rhetoric of campaigns.

The profile is but one of three about Our Man Myth this weekend: the gauzy soft-focus look of the softer aide of Mitt, and the nastier (and password-protected) look at the campaign offered by Time Magazine's Joe Klein.

While not deliberately timed to the demise of Herman Cain's campaign or Newt Gingrich's surge, the blitz does seem to represent the mainstream media's belief that Romney is the GOP's The One, this time around and we better get ready.

The contrast between the Times' Romney and the one in Parade is about as stark as you would expect from the difference in publications. The Parade profile seems to be an effort by the campaign to win the hearts and minds of Iowa voters a month out from the caucuses -- while the Times profile is the one that will likely have more staying power in its portrayal of Romney as the rational, cool technocrat who can get the job done.

Which brings us back to Michael, Dukakis that is. (I suspect the campaign wishes it had the Vick reference back, poor Seamus and all).

The Dukakis message played well for a few weeks until the Lee Atwater-Roger Ailes attack squad hit its stride with a kitchen sink full of negative ads aided and abetted by Citizens United co-founder Floyd Brown's infamous Willie Horton ad. It hardly mattered that George H.W. Bush wasn't a gifted orator.

This time around, the Democrats have a skilled speaker (when he tries) in Barack Obama and what is likely to be a billion-dollar war chest from which to launch "comparative" ads at Romney. It won't be hard -- look at what Jon Huntsman did this week.

How will the cool technocratic Romney respond in the face of this onslaught? Given his prickly response to an interview with GOP-friendly Fox News, not well.

In the end, Mitt may need to be more like the old Michael Vick. The one with pit bulls.

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