Updated: September 30, 2012 6:29AM
New Jersey Gov. Chris “Where’s the Beef?” Christie served up red meat at the Republican Convention in Tampa Tuesday night
Delegates ate it up.
“Tonight, we choose respect over love. We are not afraid,” he thundered. “We are taking our country back.”
But they also needed some comfort food.
And that’s where Ann Romney was critical.
Metaphors matter in politics.
Christie has in recent days tried to make President Barack Obama a synonym for “Chicago ward politics” even though Obama has never been a part of that club in any real sense of that term. And plenty of moderate Republicans in the Illinois delegation understand that.
But they also understand that Obama, as aloof as Romney at times, in 2008 made an electrical connection to the electorate. And four years later, though he may have disappointed them at times, they still see him as a nice guy.
There are good reasons to believe Mitt Romney is also a nice guy though he’s had difficulty communicating the contours of his caring side.
While Christie took the respect road, it was Ann Romney’s job to show the heart.
Say what you want about issues. But American voters want to feel something for the people they elect. That’s why the candidate and his wife have worked hard in recent days to lift more of the curtain on their life together. And introduced another metaphor: ironing.
On Fox News, the Romneys discussed the fact that Mitt, despite being a millionaire many times over, washes and irons his own shirts on the campaign trail.
It’s been a hard image to buy into even though people who have been on the road with Romney swear that it’s true.
“He does iron his own shirts,” said Peoria Congressman Aaron Schock in Tampa Tuesday. “He has detergent and washes them in a sink.”
Even some loyal Illinois Republicans look like they wish Romney had picked another way to portray his just-a-normal-guy-side.
“It doesn’t resonate for me,” said Rita Mathias, wife of state Rep. Sydney Mathias (R-Buffalo Grove). “But when he and his wife were interviewed,” she continued, “they have this love of life and this very casual excitement for everything ... that’s what we need to see more of.”
After seeing Ann Romney at the podium Tuesday night, I’ve changed my mind about what her husband needs to do to win over women and independents who may find him competent but not particularly compassionate. I think he should deconstruct the metaphor.
And tell voters that some people show love but just don’t talk about it.
“Maybe he doesn’t know how to express himself,” suggested Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego). “He’s of that generation.”
But in his steadfast support of Ann Romney’s health challenges including MS and breast cancer, Cross added, “Maybe (ironing) is just a demonstration of support. Maybe it’s how he handles a very emotional and difficult situation with his wife.”
Then it becomes a metaphor that marries love and respect.