I had the weirdest experience today -- I was pulling into the parking garage here at the paper and listening to the top-of-the-hour news on NPR (does that surprise you?) when I heard a short soundbite from Mitt Romney's presidential announcement today.
"Oh my God," I thought. "It's Ronald Reagan." The cadence and inflection of his words sounded as if Romney had spent the last four years in front of a tape recorder, learning to mimic the Gipper's every little verbal tic. I thought he might conclude by saying, "I'm paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!," or "we begin bombing in five minutes."
I didn't hear the whole speech, but Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, who did, filed a post headlined "Mitt Romney channels Ronald Reagan":
A single phrase book-ended former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s announcement speech for the 2012 presidential race: “Believe in America.”
Those three words, which Romney uttered in the opening moments of his address in Stratham, New Hampshire Thursday and which he repeated in its closing sentences, typified the broader message of Romney’s speech — a message that although times are hard now, brighter days are ahead.
In adopting such a message, Romney was — whether intentionally or not — channeling the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, the ur-president for Republican primary voters.
"Intententionally or not" -- are you kidding? This must be the most intentional mimicking of Reagan since Phil Hartman was on "SNL." And this is supposed to help Romney? Remember, this is the same guy who -- in trying to beat Ted Kennedy in a 1994 Senate race -- said, and I quote: "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush."
True, it was another failed GOP candidate, Bob Dole, who once told an audience "I can be Ronald Reagan if that's what you want." But this is Romney's problem now -- in every political race he's run, he's shown an amazing knack for being whoever he thinks the voters want him to be -- conservative, moderate, even liberal. Who is Mitt Romney? I have no idea -- but he's no Ronald Reagan, and I think GOP primary voters will grasp that quickly.