A Mini-Guide to Mitt Romney's Sense of Humor

Sending leftover pizzas to Obama's headquarters is his latest stab at being funny

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"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:

Self-Deprecating Jokes (To Prove He's Just Like Us)

Like every politician, Mitt likes to make self-deprecating jokes that actually point to his strengths. These usually arrive when he's trying to smooth over a campaign gaffe ("I want you to know that those small animals can be ferocious," he said in defense of his criticized hunting record in 2007) or discussing his decision (the first time) for running for president. Here's a typical example (via St. Petersburg Times):

"My wife and I we fell in love in high school, and we've been going steady ever since. She knows my strengths and weaknesses. When we all got together to talk about it as a family, and we decided to get into this race, it was a big change, a big challenge. I turned to my wife and said, sweetheart, in your wildest dreams, could you see me running for president of the United States? "She said, Mitt, you weren't in my wildest dreams."

Below, his most self-aware joke, which he directed toward Mike Huckabee's campaign manager: "Don't touch the hair."

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.