"And one of the rules we had was we were going to have fun. The first rule was every meeting had to begin with a joke. And it took some work to find jokes." --Mitt Romney in a 2008 Time interview.
Yesterday was one of those days where Mitt tried to be funny. The robotically-slick candidate and his team pranked Obama's Chicago headquarters: they sent a few scraps of leftover deep dish pizza to their rivals. That's it. It wasn't a particularly hearty joke. But it bears all the hallmarks of classic Romney humor: safe stabs at casual banter that mostly feel like they were conceived in a conference room.
Since we're going to be hearing lots of such jokes from the recently re-activated Romney campaign in the year a ahead, we'd like to present a mini-guide to the type of jokes that Mitt relies on during the stump season.
Liberal Jokes (To Prove He's a Real Conservative)
Being labeled a political shape-shifter means that Romney has to go out of his way to reassert his conservative credentials. One of the easiest ways to do that is by pretending he was a marginalized conservative as Governor in liberal Massachusetts. All the way back in 2005, The Washington Post noted this still-current tendency to throw his former state under the bus. Typical example: "Being a conservative Republican in Massachusetts...is a bit like being a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention."
More recently, Romney focused on honing the populist Obama-bashing one-liners from the Values Voters Summit in 2010 and CPAC in 2011. A sample:
Conservative Jokes (To Prove He's a Real Moderate)
Don't pigeonhole Mitt. When he goes on the air with entertainers like Don Imus, David Letterman or Jay Leno, Romney usually displays a fondness for bland, pop-culture themed jokes or perhaps a gentle dig at more extreme right wingers. Typical examples: Poking fun of birtherism on Letterman ("I have absolutely no idea where my birth certificate is"), gently taking a dig at his Fox News rivals on Leno, and hamming it up with Don Imus. Here's the Letterman segment:
Religion Jokes (To Prove Something to Evangelicals)
This used to be a much bigger issue during Romney's first go-around as a presidential candidate. To appeal to Evangelical Christians, who sometimes had misconceptions of what comprised mainstream Mormonism, he's made jokes about polygamy (and also separately denounced the practice). A typical example: When discussing his "schtick" in 2006, Slate magazine noticed that Romney repeated this joke several times: "I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman…and a woman…and a woman."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.