The Socially Awkward yet Underrated Mitt Romney

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The biggest take-away from Jim Fallows' cover story, in this month's magazine, is that Mitt Romney -- as long as he stays focused -- is a dangerous man in the debates. Jim watched tape of Romney all the way back to Kennedy-Romney in 1994 to get some sense of his skills:

Mitt Romney is far less effective as a big-speech orator than Barack Obama, and in many other aspects of campaigning he displays what appear to be laboriously studied moves rather than anything that comes naturally. But debates are and have been his strength. He grew up enjoying "big, boisterous arguments about everything around the dinner table," according to his campaign strategist and main debate-prep specialist, Stuart Stevens. "He loves the dialectic of arguing the different sides, and he's most uncomfortable when no one is disagreeing with him." He will enter this fall's encounters with very recent, successful experience in a very wide range of formats and challenges.

In none of the Republican-primary debates was Romney judged the big loser; in many he was the clear winner, and as the campaign wore on, the dominant image from the debates was of a confident Romney, standing with a slight smile on his face and his hands resting easily in his pockets, looking on with calm amusement as the lesser figures squabbled among themselves and sometimes lashed out at him.
Staying focused is not a small thing for Romney. As Jim points out, when Romney goes unscripted (waging a $10,000 bet, for instance) he gets into trouble. He does this a lot. We went with a boxing theme for this month's cover, but watching Romney I'm put in the mind of Vinny Testaverde. For the latter portion of his career Testaverde was a good quarterback. But somehow, someway you could count on him give up a pick. Mitt is somehow always good for a "I like firing people" or a "Who let the dogs out? Woof." 

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the new e-book which features Fallows' essay explaining Obama, along with an some discussion and debate between Jim and me. 

If you like what you see subscribe. And yes, you can do it on your iPad or Kindle.

OK, last time. I promise. For now.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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