Everybody loves a loser.
Is it too late to identify with Mitt Romney?
Of all of the Republican nominee's many problems during what amounted to a six-year, nonstop failed campaign for president, none did more damage than the fact that most Americans seem to have found it impossible to see their own lives in his, even a little bit. This bit of conventional wisdom found striking validation in the exit polls: Obama won 81% of the fifth of Americans who said that the quality that matters most is that a candidate "cares about people like me."
Romney's many stumbling blocks are familiar. He chose to virtually never talk about three of the four most important things in his life: his faith, Bain Capital, and the Massachusetts governorship. He talked about his family constantly, but almost never about the serious problems and conflicts most families have. His wealth may have made him remote. His frugality, and pride in not having benefitted from his father's wealth, was even stranger: Most Americans who aspire to great wealth probably don't then plan on continuing to wash their clothes in the sink. His hair was always perfect.
Romney also never managed to project something that is familiar to most people, and which has made many other candidates sympathetic: defeat. He had, in fact, faced real setbacks, from a harrowing car wreck as a young man to losses in two high-profile campaigns, for Senate and president. But Romney's response — to keep his head high, to return to business, and evidently never to look back or mope — made him seem like the stiff-upper-lip hero of a Victorian novel. In 2012, the most powerful Republican in Washington, John Boehner, seems to weep constantly. But Romney's life, in his telling, had less an arc than a straight, 45-degree upward slope.
That approach seemed to reject — and repel — sympathy. The new images of Romney that have redefined him to a public he is largely avoiding, by contrast, compel sympathy.
Here he is at a gas station in La Jolla, hair notably imperfect. "[H]e looks tired and washed up," wrote the redditor who snapped it.
There are cameras everywhere, and Romney's Nov. 20 visit to Disneyland with his sons and grandchildren was extensively documented. He looks, in it, as you'd expect to: He's escaping, having fun with his grandchildren, resigned to the curiosity-seekers.