Mitt: The Man Who Wouldn’t Be President

Mitt Romney in the Netflix documentary "Mitt." Photo courtesy of Netflix

By Steve Deace

I recently watched Mitt, the new behind-the-scenes documentary that chronicles former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s two failed presidential bids. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend it. It’s a revealing and mostly unfiltered behind-the-scenes look at a man most Americans still don’t think they know, despite the 5 years he spent on a national stage.

Here are some of the things I learned:

Regardless of all the success he’s had in life Romney is not an alpha male. He struggles with self-confidence to the point of defeatism at times.

While most men with his power and prestige are tempted with aloofness, arrogance, and isolationism, Romney is the exact opposite. His “awe-shucks” routine is the result of a man that thinks he’s still living in the shadow of his father, despite his advanced age and the fact his accomplishments eclipse his old man’s. You never get the sense Romney believes he can stand on his own two feet, which is an amazing thing to say about a man who almost became President of these United States.

Romney seems easily influenced by the last person he spoke to or took advice from, especially if that person offers an encouraging word. He’s hardly a dictatorial tycoon, but he is in need of a life coach. There is never a point during either of the two presidential races he seems totally comfortable in his own skin as Candidate Romney.

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The Romney campaign comes across as a case-study in passive-aggressiveness. For example, during one exchange with his family prior to his first debate with President Obama, Romney seems hesitant to confront the president and one of his sons seems to discourage it. But then a few minutes later in the same conversation he says he has to challenge him as the standard-bearer for his party. Then after Romney dominates that first debate, right away he assumes he will lose the next one.

A similar pattern occurs in Romney’s first race when he’s betrayed by then Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who promised Romney he would stay out of the way 2008 Florida primary, but then days before the vote he goes back on his word and endorses John McCain. Romney is justifiably upset he’s been lied to, but then seems resigned to his fate and eventually starts talking about dropping out of the race to his family as more self-doubt creeps in.

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In the movie Romney’s Mormon faith is an integral part of his daily life, and the family is depicted praying privately together on numerous occasions. This is a far cry from Candidate Romney, who at times tried to distance himself from his church’s teachings during his two presidential campaigns, despite the fact he was a high-ranking bishop in the LDS church.

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More evidence the American people were really never privy to who the real Mitt Romney is, assuming he even knows.

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If all you knew about the Romney family was this movie, you’d assume Ann Romney was the one running for president.

She’s the alpha male, she’s the rock, and without her there is no way Mitt would’ve made it this far. That’s not because she comes across as Hillary-like manipulative, but because she provides all the confidence and steadiness to the operation Mitt lacks. The only times Mitt resembles a patriarch is when he’s enjoying a touching moment with his children or grandchildren. He’s unsure of the decision to run for president both times.

During the scenes with his family it’s hard not to like Mitt Romney the man. He’s much more Mr. Rogers than Gordon Gecko. On the other hand, it’s also hard to imagine how this guy made so much money in the cut-throat world of venture capital and private equity firms. At no point can you envision this guy wanting to fire anybody, let alone standing tall on a global stage against Vladimir Putin or Iran.

Ann seems more qualified to do so, but not because she’s a bully. She maintains her femininity while also possessing an inner strength her husband seems to lack.

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Romney is painfully self-aware, and bristles repeatedly at the notion he’s a flip-flopper. Again, the passive-aggressiveness comes to the surface in one scene, when Romney says he hasn’t flip-flopped on issues such as marriage. But then turns right around and says out loud “maybe I’m just a flawed candidate.”

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So how did the self-doubting Romney depicted in this film win the nomination? In the movie his 2008 run failed because McCain wasn’t intimidated by Romney. McCain’s willingness to confront Romney on his flip-flops, and smack him right in the nose with them, psychologically scars Romney’s shaky confidence and he never recovers.

However, Romney simply had no respect for his primary challengers in 2012. Although little of the 2012 primary is shown in the movie, there are references to how weak he viewed that field compared to Obama. You can’t help but wonder what might have happened if any of Romney’s 2012 primary opponents had punched him back as hard as McCain did in 2008. But they didn’t, so Romney maintained his composure long enough to capture the nomination.

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There appear to be two Romney campaigns. The one ran by the vulture-like consultants and the one ran by the family, which clearly was the better option.

If you read between the lines in the movie and compare what you’re seeing to how his campaign eventually played out, you could easily deduce that Romney was an easy mark for predatory politicos looking to make a buck. Because at no time is the man Romney is around his family in the film the Romney we saw on the campaign trail.

Late in the campaign one of his sons tells him the American people are prepared to get rid of Obama, but he has to give them a reason to vote for him. This is almost verbatim what I said on my radio show for months. Unfortunately, Romney didn’t take his son’s advice and listened to the professional loser class instead.

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Romney really believed on Election Day 2012 he was going to win, and was even preparing his acceptance speech. But as the reality he is going to lose sets in both he and most of his family hardly seem devastated. In fact, their combined reactions range from relief to resigned to their fate.

A member of the campaign team tries to get Romney to leave the door open for a political comeback in his concession speech, but a visibly irritated Romney refuses and is adamant this is it for him and his family.

Ironically, when Romney is going over what he wants to say in his concession speech, he originally wants to talk about how imperiled the future of the country is, and how we might go over a fiscal cliff in the next five years like Western Europe unless we return to first principles. In other words, he stumbles upon the very message that probably would’ve won him the presidency after it was too late.

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One aspect of the film I’m surprised hasn’t gotten more attention is the movie clearly depicts coordination between Fox News personality Karl Rove and the Romney campaign.

For example, in a climactic scene the Romney campaign delays its concession speech specifically because Rove called them and told them not to based on his numbers. This obviously begs all kinds of uncomfortable questions about Fox News portraying Rove as a “contributor.” Imagine if we found out the liberal media was portraying one of its personalities as an analyst when off-camera they’re providing real-time advice to the campaigns being analyzed? We would rightfully point out this collusion is unprofessional, and ought to either cease or be preemptively disclosed.

Fox previously asked Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to step aside as contributors as they were getting set to become candidates to avoid the appearance of impropriety. If Rove is going to act as a candidate consultant, why wasn’t he asked to do the same? Why even permit the appearance Rove is using Fox News to shill for his party establishment associations?

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The movie makes it obvious why there never was a President Romney. After all the time he spent on the campaign trail, no one really knows what kind of president he might have made, and that’s including Mitt Romney.

I have been one of the man’s foremost conservative critics for 5 years, but I sadly pitied him after watching the movie. I can’t help but wonder if Romney wasn’t some sinister proxy for the ruling class after all, because it’s hard to believe the feeble guy in this film out-maneuvered seasoned politicians like Santorum, Perry, and Gingrich.

Perhaps Romney was just a successful businessman concerned about the future of the country he was about to pass on to his children and grandchildren? So he hired all the “top guys” our corrupt system told him to hire to get him elected to do something about it, and that was his eventual undoing. Never confident enough to step out as his own man, he relied too often on others to tell him what kind of man he had to become. Worse yet, he paid all these losers lots of money to turn him into one as well.

At the end of the movie you end up liking Romney more, but knowing him less.

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