January 7, 2012

THE TIN WOODMAN VS THE SCARECROW:

Mitt Romney Soars, Rick Santorum Struggles as They Battle in the New Hampshire Primary (Howard Kurtz Jan 7, 2012, Daily Beast)

But the differences went deeper than that. Santorum is an exceedingly earnest man with the soul of a legislator, lacking the slightest flair for the dramatic. Romney, despite his occasional awkwardness, especially on television, has emerged as a polished performer who is hitting his stride with growing confidence.

Amid the sound-bite warfare and attack ads that define the modern White House campaign, an important truth is often missed: Americans generally gravitate toward the candidate they can imagine coming into their living rooms for four years. That comfort factor helps win elections.

Romney isn't there yet. He's still the rich guy with the perfect hair, a governor's son who had to learn how to chat with voters in a diner. The one discordant note he faced Friday was when a young woman said he was a "multimillionaire with four houses. Would you be willing to give up some of that to help middle-class Americans get tax cuts?" Romney tried to laugh it off, saying he doesn't own four houses. That's true, he has three.

Santorum has a rare opportunity in the wake of his virtual tie in Iowa. He won't win New Hampshire, but the press would trumpet a solid second-place showing, enabling him to consolidate support as the conservative alternative to Romney. A new NBC poll has Romney leading with 42 percent and Santorum in third with 13 percent, behind Ron Paul.

When Santorum emerged in a white shirt and gray sweater-vest to the overflow crowd outside the Manchester restaurant, where many people had sat on the floor awaiting his arrival, there was a sense of excitement that stirs when an underdog breaks out of the pack.

But as Santorum began speaking about limited government and Medicare and capital gains, he delivered his message in a monotone that would have hampered him even if the parking-lot acoustics had been better. His rhetorical appeal to local pride surrounding the first primary failed to produce a raised voice or signature gesture. It was all prose, no poetry.

One might think the grandson of a Pennsylvania coal miner might make more of a visceral connection with a raucous New England crowd, but there was little evidence of that. 

Posted by at January 7, 2012 6:32 AM
  

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