DES MOINES -- Mitt Romney was so late to the Iowa Pork Producers' pavilion at the state fair, he was nearly early for his next event. Serendipitously, he made up for his tardiness by providing news photographers a picture-perfect photo opportunity.


The chops he was supposed to flip were a little overcooked, but Romney donned an apron, thrust his flipping hand forward, grabbed the utensil, and began to toss the pork with gusto. Lest the Democratic Party find this amusing, note that Romney only flopped once -- a chop slid off the greasy flipper and fell to the floor. Automatically, Romney scooped down to pick it up and was about to put it back on the stove when -- "No No No! Don't put it back on the stove" -- he was interrupted in the nick of time by the chefs.

Family in tow, Romney walked into the covered pagoda to find about a hundred Iowans munching on the other white meat. "Well, you can serve them some tea and water," a waitress told him. "All right, let's do that," Romney said. He grabbed two pitcher and went from table to table looking for empty glasses. Twice he ran out of drinks and walked back for refills. His advance staff tried to nudge him in the direction of his next stop but Romney wouldn't have it: he checked every single cup in the entire pavillion and wound up refilling about twelve of them.

His family -- wife Ann, three of his sons and about four of his grandchildren, waited in an enclosed miniature animal kingdom a short walk away. Romney strode in, scooped up his adorable grandson Parker Mitt Romney and went straight to the cows.

"Lambee, Lambee," Parker mewed, pointing his arm at a baby lamb.

"Ok, let's go see lambee."

What followed was an unquestionably adorable moment featuring Mitt, Parker and a baby lamb, but the professional photographers crowded the mammals, and this column can't offer a description. I did try to bait Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's long-time counselor. "A lamb. There's symbolism in that, huh...." Fehrnstom: "I'm not going to touch that one."

Boom. Twenty seconds later, Romney we were at the young chicks; he pet one -- gingerly, Parker reached his hand down and his grandfather guided it toward the downy back. Jackson smiled.

Romney's family seems quite comfortable interacting with the press; his sons and wife Ann know many of us by name, and they offer a friendly greeting when they see us and never present themselves as unapproachable. That makes the Romneys unique among all the other spouses and offspring of the candidates, save for Elizabeth Edwards and the brood. In the course of preparing a National Journal article on Romney, one of his top campaign advisers told me last year that the Romneys had no collectively antipathy toward the press and that Mitt Romney knew that his ever-present family would add some give to his sometimes starchy demeanor. The former attribute is, again, unusual: every other spouse of every other major candidate (sans Elizabeth Edwards) seems to believe that the press has it in for their husbands; that the press looks for nothing but conflict; that the press are unwilling to judge their spouses by mortal standards. (Yes, this includes, by observation and some reporting, the former president.)


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