Politics & Policy

The One That Got Away

Breaking up on the campaign trail.

It’s a tough Valentine’s Day. My man left me last week.

Or so I have been told by countless readers dancing on the presidential-prospects grave of Mitt Romney since he suspended his campaign during a speech in Washington, D.C., a week ago. My “Ken doll” has “melted.” I, a “Mitten,” must be brokenhearted.

As it happens, I’m fairly certain no woman on the masthead of National Review has ever commented on Mitt Romney’s looks. But so the silliness goes: A woman who’s into Romney for president must have a crush on him. What other possible reason could there be?

There are, of course, little things called issues (and, in fact, it was an actual policy issue that strikes at the heart of our very humanity that first turned me on to Romney’s leadership skills). But I’ll play along here, and discuss the issue of Romney’s appeal beyond his particular policy stands. Because there is, in fact, something there.

The frequent criticism during the campaign was that there was something a little too perfect about Mitt Romney. Something had to be fake. Sure, there were the policy evolutions/conversions. Maybe you bought some, or even all, as legit (I did). But then there was still too much to take beyond that, wasn’t there? The looks. The hair. And then the family. He adores his wife as she does him. Who has it that good?

His sons, his daughters-in-law, and even some of his grandchildren were all a part of the campaign — and not in a mere photo-oppy kind of way. They were a part of the campaign the way any loving family would want to be involved in something important going on in the life of another family member.

My reaction has always been: “What’s not to like?”

Does that make me — as Rush Limbaugh playfully put it after a string of female Romney fans called into his show — a smitten Mitten?

If you read my e-mail, there’s no doubt about it. Some of the less gracious e-mails have me begging to be the Mormon’s polygamous wife. (Note: That was far from the least gracious. But it was the most common, uncreative theme of the correspondence.)

Taking for granted that NRO readers give me more credit than that, let me explore this briefly — women who were into Romney for president. Beyond the policy and political philosophy, is there something we see in Mitt Romney that we don’t see, say, in Republicans on their second and third wives? (We all make mistakes, we all have disappointments and imperfect choices and heartache, but when there’s too much information that we’ve read on the pages of the New York Post . . . )

Over the last year or so, I’ve had my share of Romney conversations. Frequently, with teasing men. And with their wives, who typically take my side. In my unscientific surveys, some conservative women look at Mitt Romney and say, “I want that.” Not “I want him” — we’re not talking Nina Burleigh here — but that: the adoring husband, the beautiful children and grandchildren. Others look and say, “I want that family as my next-door neighbors.” They just seem like good people you’d want to know, that you’d want your kids to know. (Having spent a little time around them, if it’s an act, they are Oscar-scale actors.)

Now, I’ll be honest here, some gals get uncomfortable when they find out that Ann Romney makes her husband homemade granola every morning — and think that that is, in fact, a little “too perfect.” (I, for one, wouldn’t know how to make granola if my life depended on it.) But the occasional too-perfect detail can be overlooked for a true appreciation of something wonderful in our midst.

What a breath of fresh air the Romneys on the public stage have been. Way too often in pop culture, men are portrayed as dopes; think about just about any sitcom. The dad/husband is portrayed as a doofus. What’s wrong with having somebody in public life who’s like Mitt Romney — a capable, experienced executive who loves his country and also happens to be a God-fearing father and husband? That’s not a bad thing for Americans to see. Forgive him for being easy on the eyes.

And I’ll go one step further. I worry about a political culture that is a little too suspicious of a scandal-less, all-American-gee-whiz-this-is-the-American-dream-in-overdrive package. We should be glad that good people — who, while well-off, are not without their share of painful crosses — are willing to subject themselves to the ugliness that politics can inflict. We should be grateful that good families will make the sacrifices necessary to serve — and make those sacrifices with no guarantees they’ll succeed. (Now that even Hillary Clinton has proven to be vulnerable, we know there are really no guarantees!)

Mitt Romney has money, smarts, support, and a loyal staff. He’ll be fine. But the rest of us will have, someday, to face up to the consequences of a culture of political cynicism.

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