If the 2016 Presidential Election was remade into the ’50s era movie musical Grease, Mitt Romney would be the perfect pick to play Sandy.
We all remember how quiet, poodle skirt-wearing Sandy transforms into a leather-clad heartbreaker with big hair who finally steals Danny’s heart. I’m not endorsing the movie’s teaching that high heels and copious amounts of eyeliner form the path to true love. Let’s be real, guys, old-look Sandy was our first celebrity crush.
But I do argue that it gives us an apt political analogy for Mitt’s most recent participation in the timeless game of hard-to-get.
Close your eyes and visualize Mitt circa 2012—yep, that GOP candidate with the Gap Jeans and the smile that sings, “I’m going to lose, aren’t I?” His past successes in industry and the All-American image are endearing, but Danny (the American electorate) gets bored very quickly these days. How could we forget the Election Day breakup? You’re really great, Mitt, and you’re going to make someone really happy one day, but… this isn’t going to work.
Now, the scorned-lover Romney could’ve sat home with his fortune, chuckled at the unnerving percentage of Americans who still believe his real first name is “Mittens,” and sunk into relative obscurity. But that’s not how Mitt responds to heartbreak. Rather, he’s adopted a strategy of flirtation that has the country asking him “Call Me, Maybe?”
Think about it—Mitt releases a documentary that literally chronicles the failures of his 2012 campaign, and the American public is swept off of its feet by amorous nostalgia. If you thought Old Mitt wasn’t edgy enough, maybe you feel your heart skip a beat every time he casually plants an op-ed expressing his vision for America or makes a surprise appearance on cable news networks.
And what’s more flirtatious than going from saying, “No, I’m not running for President again” to, “I’m monitoring the situation” in the span of a year? Some might label that #MiddleSchool, but I argue that it’s an ingenious example of political psychology.
Slowly but surely, Mitt is making America feel like it made a regrettable mistake, and that he’s the one it wanted to dance with all along. And for now, it seems to be working.
In actuality, there are many arguments to be made against Mitt’s subtle hints. When we’re speaking of political legacies, time always seems to heal wounds. Mitt’s drubbing of President Barack Obama in CNN’s most recent “What if?” poll can be as much a product of the president’s own growing unpopularity as it is a consequence of Mitt’s perceived reputation boost. Talk show appearances and editorials from former candidates are pretty commonplace. And Mitt’s recent refusal to declare a party affiliation on his Utah voter registration doesn’t necessarily lend credence to Third-Party Candidate conspiracy theories.
Romney’s wooing of the American electorate could be a decoy or just the latest fad in a GOP field without a clear front-runner for 2016. But if Grease can serve as a viable indication, it can be much, much more than just some “Summer Loving.”
Featured Image by John Bazemore / AP Photo