WASHINGTON -- Political consultants tell candidates to be authentic -- to "be yourself." In Mitt Romney's case, that might not be such good advice.
Once again, for what seems like the umpteenth time, Romney is being crowned as the presumptive Republican nominee. His victories in Michigan and Arizona took much of the wind out of Rick Santorum's sails; Newt Gingrich is lost at sea; and Ron Paul is, well, Ron Paul. As long as Romney keeps winning, talk of some kind of deus ex machina plot twist at the convention -- someone just like Jeb Bush surfaces, but with a different last name -- remains pure fantasy.
Given the Romney campaign's huge advantages in money and organization, and given the has-been nature of his opposition, the only reason he hasn't wrapped this thing up is the "authenticity" issue: Not just "is he a real conservative" but "is he even a real person," in the sense of having some idea of how most Americans live.
The campaign has sought to answer that question with stunts such as sending Romney to the Daytona 500. The optics were good until a reporter asked the candidate if he follows NASCAR. Romney's response will live forever.
"Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans," he said, "but I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners."
Well, who doesn't? In Romney's world, I mean.
There was a similarly clueless moment in Michigan. Romney was trying to atone for his vocal opposition to President Obama's bailout of the auto industry. He said he liked seeing so many Detroit-made cars on the streets -- to be expected in Detroit -- and noted that he drives a Ford Mustang and a Chevrolet pickup. As icing on the cake, he added that his wife Ann "drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually."
Again, who doesn't?
The explanation of why Ann Romney can't get by with one did not advance the candidate's quest for regular-guy authenticity: The cars are garaged at different residences.
And who can forget the way Romney, whose wealth is estimated at $250 million, described one of his sources of income. "I get speakers' fees from time to time, but not very much," he said.
Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group