New York Times reporter Ashley Parker, on the Mitt Romney beat, again got cynically snide and personal with the “robotic” candidate in the lead to Wednesday’s "Political Memo" from the campaign trail in New Hampshire, “As Rivalry Tightens, Romney Is Reflective.”
Mitt Romney -- he of the inscrutable, overly polished and occasionally robotic mien -- is striving mightily to humanize himself just three weeks before the first round of voting begins. And that means no topic, be it his experience with humble toilets (“a bucket affair”) or his faith, is off limits.
Four years ago, Mr. Romney rarely talked of his Mormon faith during his presidential campaign, but in recent days Mr. Romney has invoked his time as a missionary and church pastor when asked to explain how he, a man whose net worth is estimated at $200 million, can relate to the everyday concerns of average Americans.
At the Republican debate Saturday night, the candidates were asked to recall when a financial strain had forced them to cut back on a necessity. While many of those onstage talked about their humble upbringings, Mr. Romney, the son of a governor, began by acknowledging, “I didn’t grow up poor. And if somebody is looking for someone who’s grown up with that background, I’m not the person.”
But, he continued, experiences through his church have given him empathy and understanding for less fortunate people.
“You’re not living high on the hog at that kind of level,” Mr. Romney said, before recounting how he and his fellow missionaries would sometimes pay a few francs to use a public shower once a week or rinse off in the kitchen with a bucket and a hose.
“A number of apartments I lived in when I was there didn’t have toilets,” he said. “We had instead the little pads on the ground. O.K., you know how that works. There was a chain behind you, it was kind of a bucket affair.”
The audience laughed at Mr. Romney’s response, which seemed geared toward tackling the central problem of his campaign: Forget about having a beer with him -- the rub against Mr. Romney is that people just can’t quite get a read on him.
Speaking of out of touch: Romney is Mormon, a religion that prohibits alcohol, so having a beer would probably be out of the question.
Parker portrayed Romney as an out of touch rich guy in an August 24 story: “Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts stirred a bit of a tempest when he said on the campaign trail in Iowa that ‘corporations are people, my friend.’ Some called the remark tone deaf, saying it fed into the perception of him as an out-of-touch millionaire. But on the campaign trail in Keene, N.H., Mr. Romney showed no signs of distancing himself from the remarks."
On September 22, Parker used some of Romney’s “regular guy” postings on his Twitter account to further the impression of Romney as a rich phony (a tack the paper rarely employed in its coverage of liberal Democrat candidate John Edwards).