It's all okay with Mitt, even though he’s been upstaged by a sportscaster turned one-term governor.
BLOOMINGTON, MN — It can’t be easy being Mitt Romney nowadays. Imagine: you find your place in the Republican firmament, make a serious run at the GOP’s presidential nomination, earn frequent mention as a possible running mate for John McCain — and then watch as McCain picks an obscure, untested, deeply flawed hockey-mom-cum-Alaska-secessionist for the job.
Maybe, deep down inside, our former Massachusetts governor rages at the injustice of it all. But rather than retreating to Belmont to lick his wounds, Romney is here in Minnesota for the Republican National Convention, doing his darndest to get McCain and Sarah Palin elected in November. Speaking to the Massachusetts GOP delegation over brunch on Tuesday, Romney offered some insight into how he does it.
“When you lose an election, lose the nomination, if you think the election is just about the person — one person — then of course you have sour grapes,” Romney said. “You don’t get involved with the new person. But if you believe, as I do, that the election is about a series of beliefs and values you think are important — for your constituency, for your state, and for your nation — then when one person loses and the other person wins, who shares those values and those views, then you jump on that team and work just as hard as you did the first time.”
Bless his heart, Romney seems to be doing just that. There was no sense at Tuesday’s exhortatory breakfast that Mitt was going through the motions. He was earnest, animated, alternately humorous and heartfelt. Take, for example, this little joke, which was delivered with characteristic Romney aplomb.
“The story is, John McCain and Barack Obama, the race’ll be so close that neither the voters nor the Electoral College will be able to decide it. So it’ll be determined — the next president — based upon an ice-fishing contest in Minnesota, right here! And the person that catches the most fish over four days wins.
“They separate them on different lakes. On day one, John McCain comes in; he’s got 10 fish, Barack Obama’s got none. Day two, John McCain has 20 fish, Barack Obama has none. Day three, [Senate majority leader] Harry Reid goes to Barack Obama and says, ‘It’s clear John McCain is cheating; go spy on him and find out how he’s winning!’ So Barack Obama goes and watches John McCain, and he comes back to Harry Reid and says, ‘You won’t believe what John McCain is doing. He’s cutting a hole in the ice!’ ”
Take that effete, elitist liberal . . . please! Later, after getting serious and contrasting the experience and judgment of Obama and Joe Biden (bad) with the experience and judgment of McCain and Palin (good), Romney offered a final bit of encouragement.
“We may not be able to carry Massachusetts,” Romney conceded. “We’ll see. There have been some Reagan miracles in the past. . . . But if it looks like Massachusetts is a bit of a long shot, we’ve got to go to work on our friends in New Hampshire.”
In a way, that’s the perfect coda to Romney’s governorship. If he’d focused his considerable political talents on his home state, and run for a second term, Massachusetts might actually be in play. Instead, it’s going to go to Obama, and Massachusetts Republicanism is at its nadir. Meanwhile, Romney finds himself relegated to the role of cheerleader — which, however he rationalizes it, isn’t what was supposed to happen.