GateHouse News Service
Mitt Romney’s campaign is stepping up its effort to make the candidate more appealing to the average voter, saying it will release a new television ad next week in which Mr. Romney seamlessly dispatches chess grandmasters, puzzles over unsolved physics problems, and translates passages of Homer’s “Odyssey” - all while performing mundane chores such as quieting a stranger’s baby, shopping at a supermarket, and repairing an espresso maker at a coffee shop.
The 60-second ad - titled “An Extraordinary Man of the People” - is Mr. Romney’s most aggressive effort to date to reassure voters that he cares about the poor and middle class even if they can’t begin to imagine what it is like to be him.
“The goal is to connect with voters who are anxious about the state of the economy and are looking for someone just like them only much better,” said Kevin Madden, a senior campaign adviser.
The ad will feature Jonathan Goldsmith, of “Most Interesting Man In the World” fame, speaking directly to the camera and describing Mr. Romney as “even more interesting than Dos Equis.”
“I don’t always vote, my friend, but when I do, I vote for Mitt Romney,” Mr. Goldsmith concludes.
The spot, which includes a sometimes rambling voiceover from actor Clint Eastwood, shows Mr. Romney casually playing three chess matches simultaneously while racing through a New York Times crossword puzzle. And at another juncture, the camera zooms in on the candidate as he pores over math equations having to do with a controlled fusion project while adroitly maneuvering his right thumb and forefinger to fix a youngster’s broken cellphone.
“What we need is for voters to see Mitt in a relaxed environment – at least a relaxed environment for him – just being his extraordinary self,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Mr. Romney. “They’ll see he is one of them except that he is far superior.”
Aides to Mr. Romney admit they are taking a risk, politically, by portraying the candidate in such grand terms, but the bigger danger, they say, is trying to play down the presidential hopeful into something he isn’t.
“Do you think the ordinary voter cares that Superman is faster than a speeding bullet and they aren’t? Neither do we and neither should Mitt,” said Mr. Fehrnstrom.
“The aim isn’t to connect with average voters but with their fear of how far up $%^ creek this country would be if they were in charge,” said one adviser to the campaign. “When they realize that, they’ll see that Mitt Romney is a much better choice than they will ever be.”
The new ad comes on the heels of a concerted effort by the Romney campaign to offer more of Mr. Romney’s personal story, after Republican complaints that he has not done enough to sell or humanize himself to voters.
Page 2 of 2 - “Governor Romney and I both care about colonizing the moon,” Newt Gingrich, who challenged Mr. Romney in the Republican primary, says in the ad. “The difference is that under his policies, poor and middle-class families will probably be sent there first.”
Mr. Gingrich isn’t the only presidential foe who appears in the new spot. Herman Cain is also in it, claiming that Mr. Romney “taught me everything I know about flat taxes and 9-9-9,” and Texas Governor Rick Perry comes on camera to credit Mr. Romney for teaching him the value of a $10,000 bet.
President Obama’s campaign, meanwhile, continued to demand specifics from Mr. Romney on a variety of topics.
In a new ad of their own, designed as a response to Mr. Romney’s forthcoming spot, the president, alone on a basketball court, can be seen smoothly sinking three-point shots and effortlessly executing two-handed dunks while a voice over wonders why Mr. Romney is being so secretive about his thoughts on the Evans Gambit, or the fusing of hydrogen into helium, or Dos Equis beer.
“Mitt Romney’s new ad is just more of the evasiveness that his campaign has become known for,” said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman. “As we are fond of reciting here, from Homer, ‘Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns; driven time and again off course. …”
Aides to Mr. Romney acknowledge their candidate, who has been busy prepping for his debates with the president and working on his three-point shot, has been slow to show voters his extraordinary side.
“We may not have given ourselves enough time before Nov. 6 to do this right. But that may not matter,” said Mr. Fehrnstrom. “That’s part of what makes our campaign so extraordinary.”
Philip Maddocks writes political satire and humor for GateHouse Media and can be reached at email@example.com.