Mitt Romney & The Girl In the Clown Suit

It’s late 2001, I’m on my second date with Jane Grummett. It was a very promising meeting and start, but something seems a little bit off. On paper, though, she is the perfect girlfriend. Maybe more, at some point down the line. But something is a bit off. I ignore it. We can talk for hours.

It’s 2006. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is signing into law the Massachusetts Health Care Insurance Reform Law. I don’t know what to think about the plan in particular, but I’m excited about a Republican, somewhere, talking about health care reform and trying to find a market-friendly way to go about it.

He and I got off on the wrong foot. He seemed to go out of his way to slam my home town, thousands of miles away from the state he governs. And there was something so very… Mormon… about him. Living in Mormonland, that was not a plus. I realized that both of those objections were frivolous. I decided I would keep an eye on Governor Romney. There were rumors he wanted to run for president.

It’s New Years Eve 2001. Jane and I are together. I guess. If you can call it that. The lingering suspicions I’d previous harbored had been confirmed. And identified.

It was apparent from the start that she was more into me than I was in to her. Lord knew why. To compensate for this disparity, she kept trying to make herself up into something more… conspicuous… than she was. She’d tell me stories about herself that strained credibility, for instance. And the more I get to know her, the less I am feeling that I really know her.

It’s late 2007. I am on the Romney bandwagon. A pragmatic, solution-oriented man that is willing to see the political terrain for what it is and go for there. More stable than McCain. More likely to be able to win the primary.

There’s a story in the paper, though, that gives me pause. He donated money to Paul Tsongas and endorsed him. That didn’t bother me. What bothered me was the response he gave when questioned about it. He suggested that his support for Tsongas was based on the fact that Bush could beat him.

New Years 2002. You know, we all wear figurative makeup at the beginning of a relationship. We try to dress in ways that will elicit a positive response. If we’re smart.

But there is a difference between that and putting on clown makeup and a clown suit to implore the other to say PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEE. Jane is wearing a clown suit. It was getting more and more obvious every time I saw her.

A week before I met her parents. We got along well. They told me some of those embarrassing stories that make people not want their significant others to meet their parents. I found them positively endearing. Reminding me of the glimpses I saw in her at the outset.

Now those glimpses are hidden underneath a clown suit.

Late 2007
. There are a million ways that Romney could have handled the Tsongas situation. He could have said that Tsongas was the best Democratic alternative to Bush. He could have said Clinton was who he really feared and voted accordingly. He could have said that the Democratic Party was starting to look appealing but they’d lost their way.

I didn’t expect the truth, necessarily. I did want something that didn’t completely and utterly insult my intelligence. But that was what I got. I started looking for a new candidate. And with each passing month, I grew to dislike Romney more and more.

Early 2002. I dumped the girl in the clown suit. Perhaps the best breakup I ever maneuvered, convincingly indicating that I valued her as a person but that we weren’t right for one another in just a few sentences. I’m still proud of it.

Early 2009. Barack Obama is being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. I genuinely hope he does a good job. I start looking back at Romney and think to myself that, ironically, he might have actually been a tougher candidate than McCain was, all polling to the contrary. The economic meltdown could really have played to Romney’s strengths the way it did McCain’s weaknesses. Maybe I will come around to Romney by 2012.

Summer 2002. I’m back on the dating market, at least tentatively. Evangeline, the girl I had already been leaning towards when I dumped Jane, had done what she always did. Eva was infuriating. Maddening. Irresponsible. But unmistakably, unquestionaly, genuine. And there she was, genuinely breaking my heart again.

I think about Jane. Wondering what she was up to. Thinking that I was making too much of the clown suit when, in so many other ways, we were a good match.

It’s 2011. Romney is running for president again. I look at the other candidates, and full-circle I am a Romney man again. Rick Perry? Are you kidding me?! If it’s Romney-Perry, I decide I will put a Romney bumper sticker on my car. It’s the first time I have ever seriously considered doing so.

It’s a little later in Summer 2002, and by chance I run into Jane. I light up. Happenstance perfection. She tells me to give her a call. I do. Within a half an hour, I can smell the clown makeup over the phone line. I keep thinking that if I could just get beyond that, there is a person that it would be worthwhile to really get to know. If she would give me a better idea of who she is when she gets exhausted from the game and the real stuff starts. I’m pretty sure I would like her. I think.

It’s January of 2012. I know that Romney is doing what he believes he has to in order to win the nomination. I wonder the extent to which he can walk it back to the center when he gets the nomination. As president, I am pretty sure he will not be who he is pretending to be at the moment. I actually expect him to be a president at least somewhat to my liking, once out of the GOP hothouse. I think.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. I like this post, and I think it’s a prime example of what I called “political essentialism” in a much-derided post I wrote about Ron Paul. This happens with a lot of politicians, this belief that who they really are is or can be a thing different from who they keep telling us – or showing us – they are. I don’t buy it for a second. When Romney says he’ll slash taxes and the safety net, double Guantanamo, and invade Iran, I have no choice but to believe he means those things. And especially if he’s elected and then does those things, I will have to deal with people who still don’t believe that’s who he is in his heart.

    • Ryan,

      But Obama told us he would reject the Bush administration’s policies on the war on terror. I didn’t believe him.

      Should I have?

      • I guess the corollary of political essentialism is that, while you should never assume a candidate telling you something you don’t want to hear is lying, you should never assume a candidate telling you something you want to hear is telling the truth.

        • Where the nuts and the bolts meet, though, is “What if he is telling someone else exactly what they want to hear?”

          Romney has changed faces enough times that I am less than inclined to believe that the music stops on the game of musical faces right about now. To some extent, it will be a matter of waiting to see what the face looks like when he is not running in a Republican primary.

          If it’s the same one as now, I will likely come to the conclusion that, even if this isn’t his real face, it is the face he will wear (or keep on) once president since it was the one that won him the presidency. If he puts on a new face, I won’t say it’s genuine, but I also won’t say “He’ll govern with the face he put on before he put on this face,” either.

  2. I enjoyed this post for two reasons.

    The first for showing me why one might object to Romney for reasons somewhat different from my own. (For my part, I could only consider voting for a Republican so unorthodox as to be anathema to the party’s core constituency [like, say, Gary Johnson]. so a candidate who panders so baldly to said constituency is right out.)

    The second for showing me how surprising politics and personality often are. When I think of the author of this post, I think thoughts along the lines of “That Will is a stand-up guy, one I’d buy a drink for and/or watching a sporting event with [yes, I do watch them].” In short, someone I consider a chum, insofar as one can be chums with someone one knows solely from Internet musings. But here he is, tentatively flirting with supporting a candidate I would never in a million years consider supporting myself. That this is possible is a very useful reminder to me, and one for which I am grateful.

    • Thanks, doc. Hopefully we will get a chance to swap drink-buying in Vegas. Or if we were to relocate to your general region.

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