As Donald Trump was insisting during a speech in Maine on Thursday that Mitt Romney would have "dropped to his knees" to win the real estate mogul's endorsement in 2012 , Austin Barbour tweeted this bit of praise of the former Massachusetts governor.
@MittRomney was superb today. Rational, collected, smart, forward looking and clear with his contrast on Trump.
— Austin Barbour (@Austin_Barbour) March 3, 2016
Barbour, a Mississippi-based Republican political consultant and card-carrying member of the GOP establishment, was referencing Romney's speech in Utah in which he sought to systematically discredit Trump's candidacy. And Barbour is right. Romney was "rational" and "smart" in his speech. He succinctly made the case that Trump is a) not a real conservative and b) would cost the party dearly if he was the nominee against Hillary Clinton in the fall campaign. (You can see the full Romney speech here.)
But it didn't hold a candle to what Trump did a few hours later across the country in Maine. While the "dropped to his knees" comment will get most of the attention — it's only the latest in a series of double entendres Trump has unleashed in the campaign — the entire Trump speech had a wild and circus-like atmosphere. The second he stepped to the podium, Trump was interrupted by a protester. "Get him out of here," Trump said, to much applause. He asked the crowd what they thought of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the next host of "The Apprentice" and took an informal poll as to who would be the better host: The Governator or The Donald. (I'll give you one good guess who won.) He called Romney a "choke artist" who blew the 2012 election. He told the Mainers in attendance that "people don't realize how large your land mass is."
Trump said, it seemed, whatever came to his mind while he was talking. (Worth noting: Trump's seeming spontaneity is actually far more calculated than it looks. Read this.) And people ate it up. They laughed. They yelled. They booed the protesters. They got caught up in the moment; the wildness of it, the unpredictability of it.
If you want to understand why Trump has done so well in this election and the establishment has, well, not, all you need to do is watch Romney's speech and the Trump rally back to back. Romney's speech — despite the condemnations of Trump — felt steady, solid and predictable. Like going to a restaurant with your kids then going home and watching a movie. Trump's speech felt raw and uncontrolled. Like going to a restaurant with your kids, then dropping them off at home with the babysitter, flying to Vegas and gambling for two straight days.
Most times, the electorate — Democrats and Republicans — opts for movie night with the kids sleeping upstairs. But every once in a while, voters want to go out raging, to blow it all out, forget about the problems of yesterday or the concerns of tomorrow. They want to color way outside the lines no matter what it does to the walls.
That's the mood the Republican electorate is in right now. And has been in for months and months. They know Trump is unpredictable, wild and a little — okay, a lot — different. And it's not that they are willing to look past those things — it's that those things are what draw them to him.
This election — at least on the Republican side — is not for the rule-followers or the mild-mannered. It's for the profane. For the puncher. For Trump.