While a large segment of pundits, wonks, and beltway insiders stand ready to put the final nails in the coffin of the Mitt Romney campaign for president of the United States (The epitaph: "He would have been supremely mediocre!"), the three upcoming presidential debates may be "Miracle Mitt's" best chance at a comeback.
Here, the Man from Bain will have perhaps his last opportunity to bore the American public slightly less than Barack Obama. He might still so entrance us with sure-footed policy pronouncements on whatever it is he would might actually do as president, while melting our hearts with his dreamy, kung-fu action hair (swoon!).
And that's where I come in.
Yes, I have been sworn to complete secrecy about my new role in the Romney presidential campaign, but I can't imagine that revealing myself here -- in this quiet little corner of the interweb -- would do any harm.
I'm just too excited to remain coy.
Based upon my vast experience in the arena of public policy, I have been hired as Romney's long-distance debate coach. What does this mean? Romney and I will never actually speak with each other, or meet, or have any interaction. This arrangement mirrors Romney's connection, or lack thereof, with the actual American people, and that's what makes my advice to his campaign completely crazy.
Crazy like a fox!
While each campaign wants to lower expectations as much as possible ("Romney is incapable of speaking in sentences." / "He sometimes forgets his own name."), I'm a maverick. A straight shooter. A tell-it-like-it-is take-no-prisoners one-man clear-cutter in the forests of insider nonsense.
So, in keeping to this spirit, and to bring light and heat to the Romney debate, I will share with you, yes you, the Wednesday-night strategies I offer to the conservative candidate:
1. Go Mittens. You are of course right to never use your actual first name, "Willard," but the "Mitt" thing is played out. Time for a punchy nickname that will whisk you into the hearts and minds of the public. That name, Mr. Romney, your new name, is, ready or not: "Mittens." Yes, you're a cat now. Why? Cats run the Internet. A recent Wired article by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, explains:
The Internet's preference for cats runs so deep that when Google's secretive X Lab showed a string of ten million YouTube images to a neural network of 16,000 computer processors for machine learning, the first thing the network did was invent the concept of a cat.
Try these on for size: "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next president of the United States, Mittens Romney!" or this future headline, "Mittens Romney Scratches the eyes of Congress and Pushes through his Bizarre Hairball-Ridden Policy Agendas."
2. Use voices. Remember how James K. Polk would imitate Henry Clay in the election of 1843, with his nasal whining about not admitting Texas to the Union? Everybody knows that you have a mean set of vocal cords and I strongly advise you, Mittens, to come out with some imitations of Barack Obama. Here, might watch SNL, and so follow Fred Armisen's "Keep it Cool" -style or adopt Jay Pharoah's series of between word "uhhhhhs." There's also Jordan Peele's fantastic "Barry O."-in college voice from his show, Key & Peele.
This will really zing it to the president, especially, Mittens, if you do it at the same time Obama is speaking. That's right, just stand up while he's talking, Mittens, and have at it. That's the bold style people expect from their next cat President.
3. Use the chair. No, not Clint Eastwood-style, Mittens! Yet did you know there was something special about this first debate in Denver? You and Obama are going to be sitting in elevated director chairs. Yes, and nothing says "power" and "prestige" better than the type of folding canvas chair that was once the exclusive stuff of movie sets but now can be bought at any Pier I-type store. Therefore, I strongly advise you to act as if you are the director of the debate (and therefore the entire country) by using this set of meta-techniques:
First, yell "Action" and point to Obama every time moderator Jim Lehrer asks Obama a question.
Second, when Obama lands a particularly effective line that gets the audience clapping, you know like, "I'm not a perfect man. Ask Michelle," or when he starts singing Al Green or when he says something about raising taxes for the 1 percent, and the crowds starts clapping... here's the trick... you clap along. Like you are enjoying the vibe. Like you get it, too!
And then, when the clapping starts to wane, Mittens, you keep clapping, more vociferously than before, so that the audience maybe starts back up again and thinks you have some genuine respect for your opponent's ideas. Then, when you are finally the only clapping, slow things down a bit so your clapping becomes a parody of itself. Now, say things like "Bravo, Mr. President, bravo!" and wipe a tear from your eye and then pull out a replica of an Oscar statue and hand it to him.
4. Trend Big: Finally, toward the end of the debate, when everyone has adjusted to calling you Mittens, has heard your awesome imitations, and has watched you work the crowd like a big-time movie director, it's time to slam dunk this thing. When Obama makes his final statement, I'll start pinging your cell phone. Keep it on vibrate and near the microphone, so the audience knows it's blowing up, Yet you'll seem thoughtful enough to have turned the ringer off. I'll hit you like seven or eight times while Obama wraps.
As soon as Obama stops, pull out the phone and check it with a big stage flourish. Say this: "Sorry, my phone has been exploding! I've got several dozen pushes here... because I am trending like hell on Twitter just now." (Turn to Obama). "Mr. President, I don't know if you know much about social networking, but I can tell you that the instant-poll of American feeling that comes to us from the Internet has really handed this thing to me. Since we've been debating, I've had 17 new Twitter followers! That's right 17, in just under 90 minutes."
Then, to demonstrate how hip you are, and how you understand the complex new media linkage between your new name -- Mittens -- your Twitter presence, and the entire American mediascape, you close with a message to the American people, in "lolcat" language, like this:
Thar r 47 persent ov teh peeps hoo will vote 4 da president no mattr wut. All rite, thar r 47 persent hoo r wif him, hoo r dependent upon gubment, hoo bleev dat they r victims, hoo bleev teh gubment has responsibility 2 care 4 them, hoo bleev dat they r entitld 2 health care, 2 fud, 2 housin, 2 u-naym-it. ... Mah job iz not 2 worry bout dose peeps. Ill nevr convince them they shud taek personal responsibility an care 4 their livez.
And that's it. Thank you very much. Election... Mittens! You can send my payment electronically.
In fact, do you have an offshore account we cud use 4 the tranzfr?
Follow Davis Schneiderman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davisivad