Robot Romney for President

Today, BuzzFeed released “25 Photos of Mitt Romney Looking Normal,” and — to my surprise — he actually looks normal! Along with the photo series, one of BuzzFeed’s political reporters wrote a column highlighting the Romney family’s social media prowess, wondering why the candidate can’t connect as well as his family members seem to (without ever seeming to reach a conclusion). BuzzFeed reports:

Mary Romney’s blog, Kendrick said, is a “very typical” example of the genre. Titled “Me & My Boys,” it has apparently been open to public view for years, drawing occasional interest from the political class. The blog was made private shortly after BuzzFeed asked the campaign about it, and about the Romney family’s social media presence in general.

This strikes me as perhaps the worst public relations idea the campaign has had in… days. The photos taken for the “Romney looking normal” series were taken from his daughter-in-law’s blog, which were then mined by the BuzzFeed staff. BuzzFeed, without a political agenda, wanted to highlight something foreign to its visitors – Mitt Romney looking non-robotic, unengineered. Finding photos of Romney looking this different, this average, was newsworthy enough on an otherwise slow news day. After these photos were gathered (by a staff not paid by the Romney campaign), the campaign’s response was to shut down the only public source of authentic Romney coverage, his daughter-in-law’s Mommy blog. This shut down will help perpetuate the same public image that has haunted Romney this entire campaign: a rich guy trying desperately to fit in with the Average Joe, but coming off inauthentic and slightly creepy in the process.

The Santorum campaign has been a success of late because of, not in spite of, the sweater vests – he is the anti-Romney. Santorum has spent a fraction of what his competitors have, instead making the rounds at venues large and small, connecting with voters one-on-one. In meetings, town halls and rallies across the country, voters see Santorum as a  genuine family-oriented conservative, the grandson of a coal miner and a devoted father.

What could the Romney campaign learn from Santorum? For starters: stop being afraid to be real, let down the walls around the campaign. Stop posting posed pictures of yourself doing laundry on your son’s Twitter account. Stop contacting Mormon Mommy bloggers, asking them to follow your messaging. Let your daughter-in-law do what she’s been doing: portraying you as a real person (if her blog had embarrassing details, BuzzFeed would have exposed them when the blog was public). Let voters see the real Mitt Romney, whoever he is.

If Romney can’t shake the perception others have of him, this will be a replay of the 2000 Gore campaign. In the summer before the 2000 election, the Washington Post reported that 65 percent of Americans thought Gore’s “stiffness” was a problem for his campaign, and the same amount of voters said the word “inspiring” did not apply to him. Leading up to the 2000 election, “Saturday Night Live‘s” number one caricature of Gore was how Romney will be portrayed if he becomes the nominee: A robot. With a public relations shop as bad as Romney’s, get ready for some reruns.