That was the image he presented here Saturday night with his Nevada caucus victory speech. Hundreds of adoring supporters waved “Nevada Believes” signs as the candidate assailed President Obama. Yet the music playing as soon as Romney finished speaking — “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley — underscored his new don’t-ask-questions-just- get-on-board mantra.
As Romney solidified his front-runner status with back-to-back decisive wins in Florida and Nevada, his confidence — and caution — have been on stark display. He has pivoted from a retail campaign based on convincing people at his events that he has a command of the issues to a made-for-television spectacle where the people are simply props helping project an aura of momentum and inevitability to a national audience.
“You need to really start focusing on ‘I am your man, and I’m the guy that will move this party forward,’ ” said Lanny Wiles, a veteran advance operative on Republican presidential campaigns. “It gets down to crowd building and enthusiasm, but a lot of that [voter] interaction is gone. For right now, it’s about pushing this train down the track as fast as you can.”
This is a natural evolution for any presidential campaign. In the volatile 2012 sweepstakes, it marks an inflection point as Romney begins to claim the mantle of the presumptive nominee.
Although Romney’s avoidance of questions from voters helps prevent him from making unforced errors, it does pose a risk that voters may see him as too cautious, calculating and detached.
“I’d just like to hear how he’d respond, see if he’s quick on his feet. . . . How else are you going to find out how he feels about things that are important to us?” said Karon Cowan, 63, an accountant who is torn between Romney and former House speaker Newt Gingrich and attended Romney’s rally Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colo.
But other voters are more forgiving, saying they want to see Romney deliver a more practiced repartee.
“I really feel that the speech is their foundation, their philosophy, and that’s what they project,” said Tim Roeland, 47, a homeland security worker who saw Romney in Colorado. “You get an ad hoc answer, that may not capture what he really thinks.”
The last time Romney took audience questions, Jan. 13 in Hilton Head, S.C., he got two off-the-wall ones. A girl doing a science project on germs wanted to know how many hands he shakes and how often he washes his hands. (He said he washes regularly and uses Purell sanitizer, too, “just to make sure.”) And an older woman asked whether he believes in “the divine saving grace of Jesus Christ.” (He said he did.)