It’s hard to find a single Republican, including those most solidly behind him, who demonstrates true passion for him or can do even a persuasive pantomime of it. They call him effective, not inspirational. They praise his competence, not his charisma. He doesn’t exert any sort of gravitational pull on his party. There’s no full swoon.
How could there be? As a growing number of Republican commentators have begun to note, he hasn’t built his candidacy on big, concrete policy ideas but, rather, on a technocratic notion: I did well in our economy, and can thus make it do a whole lot better for you. This is his mantra, and much of what he says amounts to offshoots and anagrams of it: I’m from the private sector. The president isn’t. He has no idea how jobs are created. I’ve minted oodles of them.
Many of Romney’s debate performances have been endlessly repeating tape loops of that sort of thing, and his stump speeches are even less electric. Some last about 15 minutes in all, building to a vacuous climax of spoken fragments of the song “America the Beautiful.” At CPAC, he mentioned the soul of America, the durability of the Constitution, the perfidy of taxes, the evil of Planned Parenthood: boilerplate, all of it. It’s sometimes as if he’s trying to run out the clock — on the primary season as well as the event in question — before anyone seriously questions the front-runner status that was handed to him early on.