While the much-discussed Huckabee press conference yesterday was clearly the oddest event I’ve seen in Iowa, today’s series of Mitt Romney events were pretty durn weird. In an attempt to humanize the fairly robotic Romney, his campaign scheduled a series of Mittmobile stops at private residences where football watch parties were taking place. I made it to the party at the Richardson residence in a suburb on the eastern outskirts of Des Moines. About 40 neighbors and friends of the Richardsons (and many more media) were in the basement of their tract home in a golf course community. If Romney is to win Iowa, he’s got to run up huge margins in neighborhoods like this, populated by upper-middle class voters drawn to a businessman emphasizing his “management skills.” Introduced by his youngest son, Craig Romney, the former governor gave a 10-12 minute talk from a riser just next to the TV where the University of Michigan had just pulled off its victory over Florida. Hitting his key themes of the campaign (the war on “radical violent jihad,” cutting government spending, and immigration), Romney also took a couple of jabs at an unnamed Mike Huckabee saying that “This is not a time for frivolity.” He also emphasized that Iowans wouldn’t be wasting their vote on him because he’s “not a one-hit wonder,” but a viable candidate in many early states.
The problem with the event was that, in the attempt to humanize Romney through placing him in the basement of a home with people eating jalapeno poppers and pizza, it only made his inability to naturally connect with real people more stark. [At one point, Romney had difficulty remembering the words to “America, the Beautiful.”]
There was only one oblique reference to Romney’s Mormonism. As he talked with voters after the speech, one woman quickly sat down her wine glass in some embarrassment. Romney, showing the one bit of real humor during the event said, “Oh, that’s not illegal. Well, it is for me, but not for you.”
As for that “frivolity,” I’m now off to tonight’s big event, Huckabee’s appearance with his new pal Chuck Norris. Times associate editor John Williams should be meeting me there.