Mitt Romney asked the genie for the wrong thing.
The inevitable Mitt! The inescapable nominee! A man who attracted adjectives generally associated with death and hair loss!
“I don’t want to be ‘inevitable,’” Romney yelled into the storm of inevitability at some point. “Can’t you guys just like me?”
The second sentence may have gotten cut off somewhere in there.
Conventional wisdom has long implied that Romney was the Only Sensible Man In The Race, Really and that the electorate would warm to him eventually and begrudgingly, around minute 70 of the film, leading to a happy montage of him carrying everyone to the electoral altar while confetti falls and the electorate’s parents cry and wonder why it took them so long.
That has not happened.
There is still time, but it’s getting a little ridiculous.
From Romney’s perspective, the Republican electorate is behaving like someone told that her fiance is in the next room. She opens the door and finds Mitt Romney sitting there with open arms.
“In the room,” she murmurs. “Huh.” She starts trying to make conversation with one of the lamps. She picks up the seat cushions and shakes them. She lifts up the chair where Mitt Romney is sitting to see if anything crawls out. Newt Gingrich does. “Hello,” she breathes.
“Are you kidding me?” Romney says.
No wonder he’s ready to snap at Bret Baier. Mitt Romney’s life is turning into a horrifying, nightmarish adaptation of Groundhog Day. Every four years, like clockwork, he is forced to repeat 2008. “This is your year,” everyone says, smiling encouragingly as he steps to the center of the debate platform. “You’ll be president . . . president . . . president . . . president.” (Creepy echoes are hard to replicate in print, but I do what I can.)
Here is a list of other, more exciting front-runners the electorate has tried. Bachmann. Perry. Cain. Gingrich. Gingrich is currently polling 38 percent to Romney’s 17 percent — and what most people know about Gingrich, they dislike!
This is the point in the evening when your concerned wingman approaches and mutters that you might want to stop trying, because it’s uncomfortable for everyone to watch.
I’m not saying that Romney is perfect. No one is saying that. No one has ever said that. There are the gradually melting policy positions, the fact that his gubernatorial experience was in the state of Massachusetts, the effort to pretend that it wasn’t. It turns out that people called him inevitable because the other things they would have said weren’t going to be as nice. But look around him! There’s nothing like hearing from the electorate to whom you have dedicated some of the best-coiffed years of your life that they would rather vote for Herman Cain to put sort of a crimp in your afternoon.
So I feel a sympathetic pang. Arranged marriages have fallen somewhat out of fashion these days, except among Kardashians. No one likes being told by our Parents or Received Wisdom or the Spin Cycle or whoever it is who gives us information these days that we are expected to do anything. “Romney seems like a safe bet,” Mom says. “Impeccable hair. And so polite!” That’s the kiss of death.
This cycle has been like watching the last person who believes in arranged marriages get set up with someone who doesn’t.
And what can one do?
Mitt Romney is probably off reading the Iliad now.
“Maybe if I withdraw from the field and let them fight on their own,” he murmurs, “they’ll understand that they need me to defeat Obama! I will sit here in this tent with my Mittmidons and gaze out to sea.”
He tries this for a few minutes. Then the Mittmidons wander off to nominate Rick Santorum.
“Are you kidding me?” Romney shouts. “Just watch! I’ll leave the field! It’ll be 2008 all over again!”
He shudders silently. “2008 all over again . . . 2008 all over again . . . 2008 all over again.”
Perhaps inevitable wasn’t so bad after all. It was certainly better than nothing. But there’s always 2016.