Saturday, April 21, 2018

In Mich., two rallies reveal Romney, Santorum missteps

When Mitt Romney arrived for a rally in Shelby Township, a Detroit suburb, he needed a crew of roadies to unpack him. His campaign brought its own flags and its own chairs and its own stage and its own DJ, using a special "Romney-Michigan" playlist with Kid Rock and Kiss.

The Romney people even brought their own doughnuts: 35 dozen of a Detroit favorite called paczki ("punch-kee"), in flavors including strawberry, rose-hip and prune.

Rick Santorum does not provide doughnuts. He does not provide music, either. Or flags. Or chairs. At a Santorum rally in Holland, Mich. — a day earlier on the opposite side of this desperately contested state — the candidate brought a sweater vest. Three of his children: "Numbers two, three and four," he said. And a banner that wouldn't stay on the wall. At the end, Santorum shook hands while his theme music — silence — filled the room.

The big pieces of Romney's stagecraft are impressive: the DJ, the American flag as tall as a house. But his campaign also does the little things. The folding chairs are tied together with zip ties, so you couldn't unstraighten Romney's rows if you tried. Romney's message is reinforced by the slickness of these events. It looks as if he's president already.

And yet it somehow wasn't enough.

"By the way, how was the paczkis this morning? Yeah, yeah! That was very good," Romney said at an event Tuesday. His message: We are not so different, you and I. We have both just eaten the same food! But then Romney started talking about the powdered sugar on the paczki.

There was no powdered sugar. The donuts were glazed and bare.

It was one of several unforced errors. Romney also referred several times to "my state" and meant Massachusetts, not Michigan.

Romney's audience was also different from Santorum's audience. It was a crowd that cared about economics, with no sloganeering bumper stickers on their minivans. Santorum's was a car-decorating crowd: "Abortion is NOT Healthcare." "Warning — In Case of Rapture, This Car Will Be Unmanned." At the Romney rally, the most you got was "My Child is an Honor Student".

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