The Mormonator

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  May 23, 2007

But of all the candidates, Romney might be least vulnerable to that misstep. “He is very tightly scripted, and very disciplined,” says O’Brien. “You won’t see him crack a joke he hasn’t practiced 15 times.”

One of the luxuries of unlimited access to money, O’Brien points out, is that while others are out begging for dough (or working their day jobs in the US Senate or House), Romney spends time with his highly paid consultants, working patiently on every facial expression and every turn of phrase.

“This is an exercise in branding,” says Charles M. Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a right-wing think tank in Concord, New Hampshire. “You want people, when they think of you, not to think of specific positions, but a sense of what approach you might take. For Romney, it’s about fiscal conservatism.”

Never mind that his claim to that description is highly suspect. “By any reasonable standard, he did raise taxes in Massachusetts, and he goes around claiming that he didn’t,” says Mayer, who adds that Romney’s claim to have left Massachusetts’s budget balanced is equally dubious.

No matter; poor reviews don’t stop well-marketed films from setting opening-weekend box-office records. Romney has his programmed mission, and — as with any sci-fi hero — gaps in logic and reason won’t stop him from pursuing it.

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