Ever since his post-debate turnaround on his 47 percent comments, Mitt Romney (or a “spirited fellow claiming to be Mitt Romney“) has been employing a novel campaigning strategy: trying to convince voters that he is human. (Ann can’t do all the work herself.) Of course, Romney’s not super experienced when it comes to this sort of thing, so his efforts have been a little awkward. Mostly, he’s been talking about dead people.
Romney spent the weekend in Florida, where he debuted a new version of his stump speech containing three “revealing and personal” stories about deaths that impacted his life. The first was about an old friend from graduate school — Bill Hulse, a quadriplegic as a result of an accident — who recently attended a campaign event:
“It’s not easy for Billy to get around. Quadriplegic … he can’t move, of course, his arms and his legs, and he can barely speak,” Romney said. “I reached down and I put my hand on Billy’s shoulder and I whispered into his ear, and I said ‘Billy, God bless you, I love ya.’ And he whispered right back to me – and I couldn’t quite hear what he said. He tried to speak loud enough for me to hear.”
Hulse died the day after the encounter. “It’s rare that you get the chance to tell someone how much you love them while you still can,” Romney added.
Next up was a tribute to a 14-year-old Mormon church member whom Romney counseled during the boy’s battle with leukemia. At one point, he asked “Brother Romney” to help him draft his will: “So I went to the hospital and got my legal pad to make it look official,” Romney recalled. “[David] said, ‘I want my fishing rod to go to one friend, and I want my skateboard to go to another friend, and I want my rifle to go to my brother.’” For extra human appeal, he concluded the story with a Friday Night Lights reference: “I thought of that wonderful slogan some years later: clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose. David passed away, but I’ll always remember — never forget — his courage, his clear eyes, full heart. He won’t lose.”
Finally, he talked about meeting a woman at the Republican National Convention whose husband had been killed in Afghanistan. Anti-war protesters had picketed the funeral. When asked “What do you think of these people?” she told Romney: “Chris died for them to be able to protest.” The lesson? “This is quite a nation we live in.”
The response to this new, sad Romney seems to be mostly positive. As one woman who saw him speak in Florida told Politico,”Everyone has him on this pedestal, thinks that he’s untouchable, but stories like this make him more human.” Her friend, however, found the address to be a little morbid: “There was one too many. After the second one, I thought, ‘Please, no more dead people.’”