1.) Can you shake thousands of strangers’ warm, clammy hands without instantly splashing your palm with liberal amounts of Purell in full view of everybody?
2.) Can you stop at dozens of crappy diners, chug down gallons of coffee chemically indistinguishable from motor oil, follow that up with hundreds of plates of “regional specialties” that you realize too late are deep-fried possum, and then head off to a donor’s fundraiser, where over $10,000 plates of rubbery chicken you’ll try to convince a bunch of wannabe Jay Goulds that you’ll do everything in your power to keep the rabble from burning down their fabulous mansions? Can you do all of the above without retching from food poisoning and/or self-loathing?
3.) Are you capable of telling a national television audience one thing, only to completely reverse your public opinion a few days later, and not break down behind closed doors over how your soul has withered to a cold, dry husk?
4.) Can you avoid calling half the American population a bunch of moochers?
Mincing Space Lizard Mitt Romney most definitely cannot answer Number Four in the affirmative. Unless you’ve spent the last week in a reception-free concrete bunker deep under the pristine sands of Utah, polishing your arsenal in preparation for the coming apocalypse, you’ve heard of the leaked tape in which Romney tells a bunch of rich people that 47 percent of America consists of whiny little sissies who can’t so much as cross the street without holding the hand of their socialist lord and savior Barack Hussein Obama:
Those comments seem to have driven GOP strategists straight to the whiskey with a Pepto-Bismol chaser. Between this and last week’s ready-fire-aim comments about Libya, your humble correspondent is surprised his campaign hasn’t hired some steely-eyed rancher to lasso Romney offstage the moment he starts to talk about, well… pretty much anything. Less than 50 days from the election, we can confirm that Romney’s strongest rhetorical skill is his ability to jam 47 percent of his foot in his mouth.
And yet this probably won’t affect the contours of the election very much. The respective Republican and Democratic voting blocs are pretty much entrenched, and the overall numbers (where Obama has a slight lead, at least at the moment) will probably deviate only slightly before Election Day. The battle now is over those few points’ worth of independents—although if enough of them consist of the seniors, veterans, poor folks, and children that Romney evidently sees as genetically incapable of removing the government teat from the collective lips, then many of them could swing in Obama’s direction come November.
The irony is that Romney behind closed doors is way more impassioned and forceful than on the stump, where he’s forced to interact with people whom he regards as parasites. The big question is how much of this newfound ammunition Obama will fire off during the upcoming debate; your correspondent’s guess is, “Quite a bit,” considering how Romney’s basically handed him a tactical nuke.