Mitt Romney Drives a Car

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 14 2012 2:19 PM

Mitt Romney Drives a Car

The new ad from team Romney puts the candidate behind the wheel in Livonia, Mich., thinking big and talking sad about the state he grew up in. This adds to a rich tradition of ads that feature Candidates Driving Around and Learning Things.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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The man best identified with the driving ad is Scott Brown, who tried, and succeeded, to turn his truck into an icon. He wasn't just reminiscing about the state he loved: He was telling you, the voter, that the opponent didn't pay nearly as much attention.

In 2010, now-Rep. Bobby Schilling did the same thing. Note the odometer on the screen. Schilling would go anywhere; his opponent, a Democrat who never quite recovered from an ambush-ish video in which he seemed to dismiss the Constitution, was literally fading in the rearview mirror.

Jim Ogonowski, a failed candidate for U.S. Senate and U.S. House, basically previewed the Brown strategy. His 2007 ad took him to coffee shops that a snob like John Kerry would never go to.

What was the difference between those ads and Romney's? The Romney drive isn't particularly humanizing. The candidate stays in the car, musing, narrating, like Travis Bickle on Zoloft. The Michigan ad is actually a sequel of sorts to a New Hampshire video -- hat tip, Evan McMorris-Santoro -- which actually puts him out there, meeting humans.

Why not put the guy out there, interacting with people?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.