As Mitt Romney battles his three remaining opponents for the GOP presidential nomination, voters in Massachusetts (where Romney governed), New Hampshire (where Romney has a home), Michigan (where Romney grew up), and Utah (where there are a ton of Mormons) may feel a personal stake in his progress and success. And in the town of Romney, West Virginia? Ehhh, not so much.
Romney, a small town of about 2,000 people located on West Virginia’s Eastern arm, has no historical connection to the ancestors of the Romney political dynasty. Arguably the oldest town in all of West Virginia — although saying so might be a hangable offense in Shepherdstown — it was named after Romney, England, by Lord Fairfax in the eighteenth century. Still, it does have the same name.
“We’ve noticed a correlation there,” Charlie See, publisher of the local Hampshire Review, deadpanned when we called him up yesterday. But noticing isn’t the same as … caring. “I haven’t heard a whole lot of people talking about it. There’s a lot of local elections going on,” which people are more interested in, See tells us. “We have a local assessor's race, a local sheriff's race, a county commissioner, and a prosecuting attorney.”
Asked whether the town is buzzing at all about the Romney candidacy, Shannon Nichols, a waitress at Shirley's Diner, told us, “I’ve heard it laughed about a couple of times. But not as much as you would have thought, you know? I would have thought that it would have been brought up a lot more. I thought it was funny.”
Not everyone was quite so amused. An employee at Earl’s Barber Shop told us gruffly, “I don’t know nothing about it,” and promptly hung up the phone. The apparently publicity-averse mayor of Romney, Daniel Hileman, refused to speak about the topic on the record.
But others confirmed the general lack of excitement in town for the Romney campaign. “I haven’t heard anybody in here talking about that,” said Amanda Snyder, director of the Hampshire County Public Library. “But we’re a very small town, so it’s not like we have big political talk here at the library or anything.”
It’s not that nobody in Romney supports Mitt Romney. Like any conservative-leaning town, there are some there who like him, and some who like other candidates. But there doesn't seem to be any special sense of pride in the Romney campaign.
“I think there’s more to a candidate than a name,” said Les Shoemaker, the Economic Development Director of Hampshire County.
Tim Anderson, a member of the city council, agreed. “I really don’t take name correlation into any consideration when it comes to politics, you know what I mean?”
The most anyone had to say about sharing the town's name with the GOP front-runner? “It’s nice to see the name in the paper a lot,” David, the owner of Romney Florist, told us. Although, he adds, it can also be kind of confusing. "We maybe read a couple of lines to see if they’re talking about the town or the candidate.”