Bill Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts, where Romney won a landslide victory in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary, pointed to Romney’s donors as another example of the candidate’s core supporters. “Those people absolutely love him,” Weld said. “Love him! Because they are almost all people out of the business world. And they just think he hung the moon.”
The problem for the Romney camp is that the business executives, comfortable suburbanites and business-school types who are most effusive about his candidacy help reinforce the enduring conservative critique of the candidate as out of touch with everyman experience and anger. After months of trying to relate to a conservative base that doesn’t trust him, Romney has taken to arguing that the entire idea of enthusiasm is overrated.
“This is a process of gathering enough delegates to become the nominee,” he told reporters Tuesday.
To hammer that point, Romney’s campaign held a spin session Wednesday at its headquarters in Boston’s North End — it was called a “courtesy briefing” — in which officials lectured a classroom of reporters. Advisers took turns arguing that the delegate math means there is no hope for Romney’s more exciting rivals. Senior adviser Ron Kaufman, asked to define Romney’s base, resorted to metaphysics.
“His base is his message,” he said. “If your message is the base, you are really in good shape.” Kaufman said the media are putting too much emphasis on Romney’s apparent inability to connect and his awkwardness in the company of voters.
“What’s more important?” he asked. “Who he’s comfortable with or who is comfortable with him?”
Last year, Romney and his wife, Ann, returned to their comfort zone to attend church in Belmont, a suburb they lived in for decades as Romney attended Harvard and became a star consultant in Boston. Nancy Dredge, a member of the congregation, chatted with Ann Romney and asked her where they live now.
“We don’t live anywhere,” Dredge recalled her answering.
Being from nowhere, believing in nothing and saying anything necessary to get elected have emerged as the go-to lines of attack on Romney.
On Super Tuesday, Romney sought to demonstrate that he is a candidate with roots. “Great to be back home,” he said in Belmont after voting at the Beech Street Senior Center, where a small crowd of local supporters applauded him.
“I think of him as from Belmont and standing on line at Shaw’s” grocery store, said Mary Hitchcock, who lives behind the senior center in the leafy neighborhood.
Romney then addressed a scrum of reporters gathered in foul territory at an adjacent ball field and signed some placards along the rope line. One man handed Romney, who chaired the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, a souvenir hockey puck from the Games to autograph.