The Selling of the President 2012

I missed this Philip Rucker report about the “pivot” of the Romney campaign in WaPo yesterday, what with sleep and then church and then heavy Diet Coke stockpiling while most Americans watched the Super Bowl.

But as Rucker’s campaign sources document, it sure looks like Mitt’s days of exposing himself to situations where he might be tempted to go “off-message” are at an end:

“You’re safe, you’re steady, you don’t put your candidate in a place where there could be any kind of a pitfall, you stick with the themes that have worked with you so far until you see reason to change them — and I don’t see any reason,” said one Romney adviser who requested anonymity to discuss the campaign’s strategy.

This kind of approach was pioneered by Richard Nixon back in 1968, in the highly scripted campaign that was the focus of Joe McGinnis’ famous book The Selling of the President 1968. And even though–or perhaps because–Nixon began his march to the presidency that year by croaking the earnest, old-school candidacy of Mitt’s father George–there really is a plausible connection between the campaigns of Tricky Dick and Flip-Flopping Mitt. Both candidacies exemplify the art of self-reinvention, the science of strategic pandering, the attractiveness of flawed but shrewd pols to a party desperate for victory, and the power of an essentially amoral campaign apparatus designed to reveal or disguise the Next President of the United States as circumstances demand. Of course Mitt will now occlude himself as much as possible. What possible reason could he have for behaving otherwise? A desire for authenticity? Too late for that.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.