Todd Domke

Giving up the ghosts

For Romney, success may require campaign exorcism

By Todd Domke
August 25, 2011

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Fifth in a series of scenarios on how GOP presidential candidates could win the nomination

IT’S THE night before Christmas - and seven short weeks before the New Hampshire primary. Mitt Romney is sound asleep . . . and dreaming.

A ghost appears. The spirit looks like Rush Limbaugh in golf attire. “I am the ghost of campaigns past,’’ he says into a golden microphone.

Mitt chuckles. The ghost is not amused. “We’ll see who has the last laugh. I’m taking you to your past - because you are haunted by your mistakes.’’

Together, they vanish into an earlier decade. “Look,’’ says Mitt, “that’s me, campaigning for governor.’’

“Yes, you were a practicing moderate then,’’ says the ghost. “Let’s sail forward in time.’’

They stop at a news conference. “There I am, signing the bill for, uh . . .’’

“Yes, RomneyCare.’’

Mitt shudders. “I look happy, but clueless. I didn’t realize it would haunt me later.’’

They reappear at a 2008 presidential debate. John McCain needles Mitt for flip-flopping. “You’re the candidate of change.’’ Everyone laughs.

The floating Mitt wonders, “Why don’t the other candidates like me? I’m a nice guy.’’

“They don’t respect you. Want to see why?’’

“Not really.’’

“Face the truth!’’ The ghost whips out an iPad. He shows video clips of Mitt pandering.

“Enough!’’ cries Mitt. “I may seem phony, but I’m just being me.’’

“So you’re a genuine phony?’’

Mitt wakes up in a cold sweat. “Phew - just a dream.’’

He soon falls back asleep.

Another ghost appears. The apparition looks like George Stephanopoulos in a tuxedo. “It’s showtime!’’ he says, grinning. “I’m the ghost of campaigns present - or rather, of your campaign.’’

“Oh good, that shouldn’t be scary,’’ says Mitt.

“Think again.’’

They float into a conference room. “Hey, that’s me, with my campaign staff!’’

The candidate is scolding them. “A campaign should be run like a corporation! Position me like a brand. Package me so I’m telling consumers what they want to hear. Poll-test everything!’’

His campaign manager says, “Yes, boss. We’re keeping media interviews to a minimum. We’ll let the other candidates blow up. And if they don’t, we’ll leak our oppo research.’’

“Great,’’ says the candidate. “Let the others take flack, trying to be reformers and leaders. Keep me under the radar.’’

The floating Mitt looks sheepish. He tells the ghost, “Sounds a bit cynical. Can we go?’’

Mitt awakens, embarrassed. He falls asleep again.

A third ghost appears, looking like Donald Trump in a toga. “So,’’ says the specter, “you are my candidate apprentice? That’s sad.’’

Mitt frowns. “You must be the ghost of campaigns future. Just tell me, am I fired?’’

The ghost replies, “I like to build suspense. It’s good for ratings.’’

They rematerialize in a suite at Trump Tower. The ghost says, “This is the most beautiful building in the world! Your mansion in La Jolla is a doghouse compared to this.’’

“Why are we here?’’

The ghost turns on a huge flatscreen. “We’re going to watch a live broadcast of the 2012 Republican convention.’’

“Hey, that’s me speaking to the delegates!’’ says Mitt excitedly. But then he hears, “I am proud to nominate the next president of the . . .’’

“Darn!!’’ says Mitt. “I lose again! How did I blow it?’’

“Voters wanted big and bold, but you went small and timid.’’

“So who won? Who am I nominating?’’

The ghost cackles. “A brave leader, who speaks with conviction . . .’’

R-r-r-r-r-ring! The phone wakes Mitt.

Realizing he had just been dreaming, he’s giddy. “OK, ghosts, I understand. No more pandering. I’ll be a leader.’’

He answers the phone, “Merry Christmas!’’

“Boss, I’ve got terrible news,’’ says his campaign manager. “You’ve fallen to third place in polls.’’

“God bless us, everyone!’’

“Yeah, we’ll need a miracle.’’

Todd Domke is a Boston-area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author.