Things are not fully going to plan for Mitt Romney right now.He won Iowa (temporarily), won New Hampshire and had a solid lead in the South Carolina polls.
But that was a few days ago.
Now, not only did his victory in Iowa get thrown into question, his lead in South Carolina is collapsing and there is renewed chatter about his less-than-dominant win in New Hampshire.
All this is wearing on Romney. Witness this over the top and testy reaction to a fairly routine 99% heckler.
For a candidate who has been blasted for being too plastic, unable to connect with voters and even held up as a human embodiment of the uncanny valley, this breaks the mould.
Or does it? What if this Mitt Romney — impassioned with a quick verbal draw and a definite ideological stance — has been there all along, just dutifully concealed by the candidate?
It’s conjecture to be sure. Romney is a buttoned up guy, no doubt about it. But to be as successful as he’s been in business and politics, you need a deep drive to win and the will to pull out a knife when necessary.
With his recent setbacks coming so close to when it seemed like Romney had the nomination won, he may be reaching a boiling point. Afterall, what’s a worse feeling to a guy who plans everything and then works day and night to execute the plan than the plan not working?
We could be closer to seeing full-on Colonel Jesop ‘you’re God damned right I ordered the code red’-style moments from Mitt.
The two issues likeliest to cause Romney to flair up: his wealth and ambition, personified by the fights over his tax returns and and his consistent inconsistency on policy issues.
What would Romney’s code-red moments look like?
On his wealth, we already saw what Romney is dying to to say in the subtext of his 99% outburst:
You’re right, I’m really really rich. And I have worked incredibly hard for that money. I put in 100 hour weeks for decades and was smart enough to know how use the rules to my advantage to make a lot of money and keep it. If you didn’t do this, that’s your fault, not mine.
On his ambition and the more superficial issue of his flip-flops:
Yes, I want to be President and have since my first term as Governor. And I’m doing everything you need to do to become President, just like everyone I’m running against. What I’m smart enough to know and you aren’t is that ideological consistency gets thrown out the window as soon as you enter the Oval Office. I absolutely know that I would be a better President than anyone else. All I want is to be President.
Campaigns are stressful, draining ordeals that, as the cliché goes, reveal the character of the candidates. Witness Obama in 2008. After a setback in New Hampshire, Obama held fast, turned defeat into a defining moment with soaring rhetoric and then methodically and technocratically ground out delegate votes for months on end.
Romney? Well, the knock on him to date is that he really doesn’t have much in the way of a ‘personality.’
But in his recent outburst, we got a glimpse of what might be beginning to surface, particularly if he loses in South Carolina and the race for the nomination drags on.
It won’t be pretty, but it might be authentic.