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From the cutting-room floor: For this week’s issue of Newsweek, I wrote a cover story about why Mitt Romney can’t connect with other human beings. At the last minute, we decided to scrap my original lede for a newsier opening; we thought the should story touch on last Thursday’s Republican debate.
It was the right decision. Still, I really liked the original lede. That’s why I’m going publish it here, on my very own Tumblr, in all its glorious, rejected originalness:
What is Mitt Romney? It is very hard to tell. Right now, the former Massachusetts governor is wending his way through the Iowa State Fair, past funnel cake and fried ice cream, walking tacos and cheese curds. He is flanked by men waving large American flags. He is wearing a navy-blue polo shirt and a pair of John Varvatos brushed-cotton jeans, in olive. They retail for $225. With his black hair and white temples, he looks as if he is slowly morphing into a bald eagle.
Surrounding Romney is the same amoebic clot of reporters and photographers and boom-mike operators that seems to materialize whenever a potential president comes within a few hundred feet of a corn dog. The collective goal, as always with these things, is to pluck from the day’s proceedings a few details—a word here, a gesture there—that provide a glimpse, however fleeting, of the person behind the politician. The problem is that Romney’s most telling moments tend to have the opposite effect. They tend to reveal how little he is able, or willing, to reveal.
As Romney arrives at the Varied Industries Building, an aide emerges from the crowd with lunch: a pork chop on a stick. The boss takes a bite, and then, still chewing, strikes up a conversation with the nearest retiree, if “conversation” is the right word for what Romney does with voters, which usually involves repeating whatever they say to him immediately after they say it.
“That’s the best thing at the fair,” the retiree says, pointing to the pork.
“Is that the best thing at the fair?” Romney replies. He pivots to the retiree’s granddaughter. “What are you, about 7?”
“Eight,” she says.
“Eight,” Romney confirms. He swivels back to the retiree. “You in the ag world?”
“The insurance business,” the retiree says.
“Insurance business,” Romney responds. The retiree goes on to mention that he “lived on Clear Lake,” up near the Minnesota border, “for years.”
“Beautiful area,” says Romney. “I love water.” He takes another bite of his pork chop.
“Well, we better let you go,” the retiree finally says, glancing at the cameras. “We’re getting more airtime than you are.”
The rest is pretty much the same. Read it here.