If there is one undercurrent rippling through the Republican National Convention, it is the effort to rebrand Mitt Romney as something other than a dispassionate Mr. Spock-esque hologram into a fuzzy-wuzzy Mr. Rogers of the right. • Good luck with that. This is a Sisyphean challenge rivaling transforming a sputtering American Motors Gremlin into a Lamborghini. • It didn't help that so many convention speakers avoided mentioning Romney's name — as if they would be bringing up Uncle Fester, the embarrassing relative who always arrives for the family Thanksgiving dinner in an evening gown.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Tuesday's keynote speaker who comes off as if he is auditioning for a sequel to Goodfellas, didn't get around to uttering the name of his party's candidate for president until the end of his speech.
A former rival, ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, finally realized he was supposed be delivering a ringing endorsement of Romney toward the conclusion of his remarks when he rationed out three mentions of Romney. Hey, thanks a bunch.
Romney fared little better with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. When they weren't promoting their own accomplishments, they seemed fearful of turning into newts if they paid too much attention to the candidate.
Didn't anyone think to explain to these folks who the nominee was? It was Lurch over there in the corner.
Instead, the challenge of casting Mitt as a Norman Rockwell painting fell to spouse Ann Romney on Tuesday night. Well, somebody had to do it.
Despite all the folderol surrounding convention speeches, rarely does anyone remember very much of what was said once the campaign kicks off in earnest. Ann Romney's defense of her husband as being a regular Shecky Greene in private had essentially two agendas.
First, she wanted to assure the public if you put a mirror under her husband's nose, you'll discover respiration going on there. And second, she needed to appeal to women who fear the GOP wants to keep them in hoopskirts.
Mrs. Romney had a problem. Voters love the "great American poorer than dirt to the presidency" story. And by now, everyone knows Mitt Romney is the King Farouk of leveraged buyouts.
But she pressed on with her narrative of a young couple struggling in the early days of their marriage by barely subsisting on tuna fish and pasta, as if these two food groups represent the dishes du jour of the Joad family crowd.
Ann Romney has often recalled the stress of consuming all that Bumble Bee and Mueller's spaghetti to symbolize her connection with the travails visited upon young families. But she conveniently left out how she and her husband lived off an American Motors stock portfolio given to them by Michigan Gov. George Romney — just like how everybody else got by.
With a party criticized for insensitivity toward women and a platform plank that would deny abortion even in the case of rape, incest and/or the health of the mother, Ann Romney rose to the pandering occasion. She argued that women are the ones who really hold the country together. It is the women who have to work harder and do even more when they get home from a hard day's work.
"You are the best of America. You are the hope of America. There would not be an America without you," Ann Romney swooned.
It was a convention pep talk after all, where the speakers are allowed a certain latitude for being more over the top than RuPaul. Still, you have to wonder what the reaction might have been had Mitt Romney asserted that men were the best of America, the hope of America, the very reason America exists. It's just a guess, but Romney probably would have found himself running for president of the Vienna Boys Choir by now.
Ann Romney began her remarks by noting she wanted to talk about love, only to be followed by Christie, who by now was more annoyed than Jack Nicholson in The Departed. Christie wasn't having any of this touchy-feely stuff.
"I believe we have become paralyzed by our desire to be loved," Christie groused.
The New Jersey governor might have consulted with the former Massachusetts governor to get the messages straight. If only he could have remembered the name.