Michael Tomasky: How Tricky Mitt Romney Is Aping Richard Nixon

Roundup: Media's Take

Newsweek/Daily Beast special correspondent Michael Tomasky is also editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.

Apparently, there will be no sweeping effort undertaken to humanize Mitt Romney at this week’s convention. He told USA Today that during the daytime sessions, there will be “a series of vignettes, so people who attend the convention will get to know me a little better,” but during primetime, when millions are watching, “we won’t be talking about my life.” It’s the right decision in the sense that there’s almost nothing about his life that’s the least bit emotionally compelling. But it’s also a telling one, because it means the campaign is basically going to be: Vote for me, I’m white, and I’m not a socialist.
Gallup found last week that Barack Obama outscored Romney by 23 points on the likability scale, as 54 percent said they found Obama likable compared to only 31 percent for Romney. Normally a campaign would be quite worried about this, and rightly so. I’d rate it as Romney’s biggest problem, more than his positions and his incessant right-wing pandering (I guess those two are the same thing). People don’t normally vote for somebody they don’t like, especially for president. A state legislator, a congressman, a senator, even a governor—you can forget who that is, if you have a mind to; go days or even weeks without hearing his name. But the president? You can’t avoid the guy.
And so every presidential campaign of the television age has pushed the touchy-feely button. Al Gore and his sister, George W. Bush and the bottle (and Jesus), Bill Clinton and the abusive stepfather, Bob Dole and the war injury. And almost every winner has been likable enough. Bush was definitely not my cut of steak, but I could imagine that if he were a normal guy and I ended up next to him on an airplane, I could carry off a reasonably happy chat with him about golf or something, assuming a mercifully short flight.
We have had, in the modern era, just one truly unlikable president. Dick Nixon, of course. And it turns out that there are points of similarity between Romney’s and Nixon’s campaigns that aren’t instantly apparent but are worth fleshing out...

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