Walter Shapiro's Yahoo! News column examines what we know about the character and personalities of the 2012 candidates. Shapiro, who is covering his ninth presidential campaign, is also a special correspondent for the New Republic.
Mitt Romney confided during a recent interview with Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal that he has been keeping a campaign diary on his iPad. The goal of the journal, he said, is to capture “the feelings – the ups, the downs, the people I meet – and the sense I have about what’s going to happen.”
Romney joked that his private jottings would make his iPad “a subject of potential theft.” Tempting though it may be, no cat burglar is likely to slither up the Romney car elevator to walk off with this piece of history. Still, it would be fun to read Romney entries like: “Tuesday it rained. Well, actually, Donald Trump rained on my parade.”
Without resorting to a life of crime or waiting for the publication of Romney’s memoirs, let’s simply imagine what might be hidden in the Mitt Memory Book on his iPad.
Dec. 31, 2011: Growing up dreaming of an exciting life like being a missionary in France and being a car guy like my Dad, I never thought that Ann and I would be spending New Year’s Eve in Des Moines. But then six months ago, I never thought I’d be spending New Year’s Eve leading in the new Des Moines Register poll.
If I win Iowa big enough (especially without a social conservative like Rick Santorum nipping at my heels), I can go back to being who I really am – a problem-solver, a can-do guy, someone who knows the free market. These social issues: It’s not like I’m a liberal. I’ve had one wife and one beer, long ago. But people out here care so much more than I do about stuff like gay marriage. Gosh, though I’d never ever admit it, Obama was sort of right about them clinging to their guns and their religion.
You know, a year from now, on New Year’s Eve 2012, Ann and I could be in California, surrounded by the Secret Service, looking out at the ocean and making our plans to move into the White House. Or we could be out there all by ourselves, staring at the waves, wondering what should we do with the rest of our lives. Dad did pretty well after he knew he’d never be president. I can take it, win or lose, I think.
Jan. 9: I love picture-postcard New Hampshire small towns where everything is perfect except the trees are the wrong height (too tall, but I can never say that). With the primary tomorrow, this was supposed to my victory lap day after virtually winning the Iowa caucuses (neck-and-neck with Santorum and they’re still counting). Instead, I have to do one of those gosh-darn walk-back-the-cat press conferences.
They’re going to want me to explain what I meant when I said that I worried about being “laid off” during my early years at Bain. Well, I did. It would have been embarrassing to be back on the job market with just my Harvard MBA and my law degree to fall back on. My advisers tell me that I have to relate to the average guy, the average schmo. Then when I actually tell a true story from long ago, they’re on my case because I’m “out of touch.” What am I supposed to do? Invent a different life where I was eating dog meat in Indonesia?
Feb. 2: Did Newt Gingrich, with his campaign running on fumes, really believe that Donald Trump would endorse him? I’m the only guy in the race who can talk to Trump mano-a-mano about what he cares about: money and convincing the banks that he has it. Trump’s entire brand is that he’s a winner surrounded by winners. That’s my brand, too, a guy who’s going to get the nomination because he’s going to get the nomination. I can’t say it was much of an endorsement from Trump, since he mostly (big surprise) talked about himself. But my people tell me – and the polling and focus group research back this up – that Trump can only help me, he can’t hurt me.
Feb. 10: Every time we rehearsed the speech, I didn’t like the line. Talking to CPAC, the heart of the hard right, you can’t just say that you were “a conservative governor of Massachusetts.” It’s wimpy, like saying that the Red Sox are a baseball team you’ve heard of. So I added an adjective – and maybe “severely conservative” wasn’t the best choice. But I had one-tenth of a second to make up my mind as I was speaking. What was I supposed to do? Stop the speech and ask for the focus group research? Maybe nobody will notice.
Feb. 24: After four campaigns, I know you can’t run politics like a business. But, boy, I wish you could. If I could figure out who was the person who gave the final sign-off on my giving an economic speech on the 30-yard-line of an empty football stadium, I would give them the full Seamus treatment. Jackie Gleason on the old “Honeymooners” would say, “To the moon, Alice.” Well, if I could run things the way I wanted to, without the press finding out, it would be, “To the car roof, former Romney aide.”
Ann tells me to calm down, that we’re going to beat Santorum here in Michigan. Still, I wish I hadn’t tried so hard to prove that I was still a Detroit car guy and started talking about her Cadillacs. I hate it in politics when Ann gets caught in the line of fire. Wives never became collateral damage when I was in business. But if we win Michigan, it’s pretty much over and I can go back to being who I really am: a problem-solving businessman who knows how markets work. In other words, a severely conservative moderate. April 10: If only Dad and Mom – Dad especially – were still alive. Santorum has just dropped out, as I knew he would, because he couldn’t risk losing his home state of Pennsylvania. What that means is that my 10-year plan (I remember putting together the first PowerPoint for myself and Ann the morning after the Salt Lake City Olympics) has been crowned with success. Sure, it took some doing, some re-branding of positions and about $75 million out of the boys’ inheritance, but at last a Romney will be nominated for president, just like Dad should have been. And once we get the Santorum endorsement and firm up my right flank, I can finally go back to being the guy I really am.
It’s a funny thing, though. I felt a lot more euphoria back at Bain when we flipped that credit-reporting company and made $200 million for owning it for three weeks. Maybe it’s getting older, maybe I’ll feel it on the big night at the Tampa Convention, but those early days at Bain seemed like a lot more fun.
May 19: They’ve been telling me for weeks that the Democrats would go after Bain. So I guess it’s no surprise that Obama and his super PAC are up with ads about how all I want to do in life is to close steel plants and shut down paper-and-pad companies. I can’t decide if Democrats are even more cynical than we are or whether they really don’t understand free markets. Golly, this is 2012 and the companies that they’re weeping over in the Obama ads made things like buggy whips and typewriters.
That’s what’s so frustrating about politics – so many people, even the Republicans, don’t understand how capitalism works the way I do. I remember when Forbes magazine had a slogan, “Capitalist Tool.” I get that in a way that lots of good guys who are on my vice-presidential list don’t. There’s nothing wrong with Rob Portman or Chris Christie or Marco Rubio or Tim Pawlenty. But they’ve all spent most of their lives in government. I just wish I had a running mate who could go out there and explain to the voters in ways that I can’t about how they’re wrong about Bain. Destroying and building, destroying and building, that’s where the economic growth comes from. May 29: Spent the day in Vegas with Donald Trump. Remember back in February when I said that Trump could only help me, he couldn’t hurt me. Well ...