Craig Romney is at this event also. It turns out that the youngest Romney son has the old man's knack for politics—though he says he's not a political animal. Craig tells the identical story he's been telling all day long about his 18-month-old son, who has watched his grandfather so much he now shakes hands of people he doesn't know on airplanes and pretends to sign books at home as Romney does on the campaign trail. Craig's facial gestures are the same at each telling. His pauses are practiced, and the adoring stare he shares with his father is identical. Craig's entire two-minute speech is so similar between the two stops that to gauge the differences, you'd need a special piece of NASA equipment.
There's one element to his final pitch that is new to me. "Anne and I won't embarrass you in the White House," he says. He's said this at the Norwalk event, too. Who is he talking about? Is this a shot at Rudy Giuliani, whose exciting personal life is on the mind of some Republican voters? Or, is he making a point about the general election? If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, is he saying that his squeaky clean family will provide a better contrast to her than any other GOP candidate? (permalink)
Norwalk, Iowa, 2:35 p.m. CT: I am on my own now and waiting for Mitt Romney to arrive at the Coats' house, where he is meeting with supporters. Tom Coats is explaining to reporters why he is supporting Romney. A social conservative, Coats liked Romney's opposition to legal gambling and his business background. What does he think of Huckabee? "He's like the young lady you date from the neighboring town, but then she moves into your school and she doesn't look so good."
The house is nearly identical to the one in Johnstown, Iowa, that I visited with Romney two weeks ago. It's an upscale suburban home a good deal bigger than those homes I visited with the Edwards volunteers. It's festive and still decorated for the holidays. The dining room table is fully laden with shrimp and cookies and warm little meat offerings. Turnout seems low given the amount of food prepared. Either that or the hosts think that Mitt will make people ravenous after he leaves.
There are about 30 people waiting for the candidate, and when he arrives in the Mitt Mobile with a press bus following, the numbers in the house more than double. If this were an Obama event, it would spawn a reality show as the house was rebuilt after it tried to accommodate 3,000 people.
Romney arrives: "I smell something delicious." There is nothing to smell, but never mind. The candidate takes his place before the mantel, which features a frosted snowman with a pipe. All mantelpieces at house parties like these are adorned with big smelly candles, frosted figurines, fake ivy, or garlands with pine cones. Romney gives his pitch, which includes a short cameo by his youngest son. The only thing that's new for me is this line: "Anne and I won't embarrass you in the White House." Hmmmm. Who is that a shot at? Rudy? Or is it a shot at Hillary? Elect me, because I'll be the squeaky clean candidate against those sordid Clintons. (permalink)
Dec. 31, 2007
Des Moines Marriott, noon CT: I am the ultimate hack. I am in Des Moines attending a Mike Huckabee press conference in my hotel. This is the least amount of effort a reporter can expend getting the news. The only thing that would be easier is if he'd given the press conference in my room. Every other member of the media is staying in the hotel, too, which brings up an old conundrum: Do I bother covering an event that everyone else will cover? There will be news crews from all over the world, not just because Huckabee is now in a tight fight with Mitt Romney but because the news is happening so near their already propped up cameras.
What the heck, I decide. I'll go because it's so close. Plus, it's my wife's last day in Iowa, so I'll show her what a press scrum looks like. The first person we run into is Barbara Comstock, a senior aide for the Romney campaign. She's there to see what negative ads he's going to run. The press conference it turned out was a very strange piece of business that required its own story. I was glad I'd brought my wife. People will talk about this moment for years to come. (permalink)
Dec. 30, 2007