Hot potato.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Aug. 31 2007 5:57 PM

Hot Potato

Republicans can't drop Larry Craig fast enough.

80_thehasbeen
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In an amusing attempt to contain the damage from not being able to tell Ralph Reed from a hole in the wall, the Romney campaign told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it had the case of mistaken identity all wrong. The newspaper had reported that Romney saw Ralph Reed across a crowded room and called him Gary Bauer. But campaign spokesman Gail Gitcho gave the paper a different story:

According to Gitcho, Romney mistook Reed for South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, with whom he'd just met, and not Gary Bauer, as our sources recalled.

Gary Bauer is a friend of Romney and has been a guest in his home, so he wouldn't mistake him for Reed, Gitcho said.

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That explanation will come as a great relief to Gary Bauer, who probably doesn't like being mistaken for Ralph Reed any more than I do. But it doesn't do much for Romney. With his thick eyebrows and 5 o'clock shadow, André Bauer doesn't look at all like the baby-faced Reed. If there's one thing worse than going to a state Republican convention thinking all Christian operatives look alike, it's going to Georgia thinking all white Southerners look alike.

Camp Romney might have a better case if their candidate hadn't seen André Bauer in years. But their excuse is that Romney couldn't remember the man because he had just met with him.

This would be a serious, if sometimes comical, handicap in the White House, because presidents have always just met with someone. Bush got in enough trouble talking about what he saw when he looked in Putin's heart. Imagine the repercussions if an American president came away from bilateral talks with the Russian leader saying he'd never met the man, or saw Putin across the room at the G8 and shouted, " Nick Sarkozy!"

Will Rogers said he never met a man he didn't like. Romney's campaign says he never met a pol he didn't forget.

In the meantime, the poor fellow has to endure at least another eight months of just having met people on the campaign trail. Other candidates have their own worries now that the Fred has landed. But Romney's programmers can't possibly have anticipated that taking over the planet would involve a race against two men named Thompson.

Faceless multitudes of Slate readers have already responded to the Mitt Romney Look-Alike Contest, the winner of which will be announced on Monday. Reader M. H. Dunlop wrote in to suggest that "Romney suffers from 'face blindness,' sometimes called prosopagnosia, which appears to be, or is claimed to be, an inherited defect." Two decades ago, neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote about another form of agnosia—or "nonknowledge"—in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

More likely, Romney's brain simply uses a different classification system than we do. André Bauer and Ralph Reed may not look alike, but their differences are mostly skin deep. Both are ambitious upstarts who ran for lieutenant governor, a job that is all prospects and no power.

Bauer won, so he gives us an insight into the kind of lieutenant governor Reed might have been. One of Bauer's main responsibilities is giving annual writing awards to fifth- and eighth-graders. The contest rewards originality but insists that in order to win, "close attention should be given to punctuation, spelling, grammar, and neatness."

If Ralph Reed entered his famous e-mail to Jack Abramoff—" I need to start humping in corporate accounts!"—whatever points he might gain for creativity, he would lose for punctuation and sloppiness. Bauer's own work wouldn't even be eligible. On his official Web site, he writes, " Let us all congratulate this years winners, they have written inspiring works."