Awkward Romney Tries on Chris Christie's Persona

The corny nice guy tries out the unusual campaign tactic of being mean to voters

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Ways people have described Mitt Romney: wooden, stiff, out of touch, awkward, unfunny. One label he hasn't earned: Mean. So far! The Hill's Christian Heinze notices that at a townhall in New Hampshire Wednesday, Romney tried out another persona -- Chris Christie's. Christie is a hero on the right for standing up to hostile pro-union questioners (or, as liberals say, yelling at teachers). Wednesday, Romney tried his hand at being belittling and sarcastic. It doesn't really suit him.

A voter sounded frustrated when she asked Romney how he could support an amendment to the Constitution that would force balanced federal budgets when a natural disaster or other emergency could require an unexpected surge in spending. Romney interrupted her, asking, "Did somebody in the room say that we don’t need any government?" As she tried to explain herself, Romney cut in again, "Do you have a question, and let me answer your question." When she said, "Yes, how do you think the government can not provide funds for the people, its citizens?" he demanded, "You had your turn madam, now let me have mine!" Then, sarcastically, "I'm sorry, you had yours... now it's my turn.... Let me finish? Good! ... Let me speak, then you get to speak, okay?"
The exchange goes a bit further than an incident earlier this month, when Romney disagreed with an Iowa voter who said corporations shouldn't get tax breaks; Romney interjected that "corporations are people." Romney won some praise for that among conservatives. And with this appearance, maybe he's going for more. As Heinze explains:
I have a gut feeling that he's trying to reproduce some Chris Christie magic; in fact, he probably knows that the thing that makes Christie so effective in a townhall environment is the dynamic Romney most sorely lacks -- authenticity and passion. 
When Christie's frank and borderline rude, it's becoming because it's exactly what you'd expect from a portly, former prosecutor... But when Mitt tries to have a Chris Christie moment, it clashes with his essential persona -- the calm, collected business executive. 
And the dork. Romney is the clean-cut guy with a love of dad jokes. (A sample from the campaign trail: "I saw the young man over there with eggs Benedict, with hollandaise sauce... And I was going to suggest to you that you serve your eggs with hollandaise sauce in hubcaps. Because there’s no plates like chrome for the hollandaise.") The Daily Beast's Jill Lawrence has some sympathy for Romney, whose awkwardness doesn't mean he'll lose the Republican primary -- or that he'd be a bad president. But she hopes he'll get rid of the corny lines. Still, maybe it's not necessarily an improvement to switch out cheesy for rude.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.