Mitt Overdoes It At CPAC

by Maisie Allison

In his address this afternoon, Romney boasted, "I fought against long odds in a deep blue state, but I was a severely conservative Republican governor. As Katrina Trinko notes, "severely" was not included in his prepared remarks. Allahpundit:

The awkwardness of that phrase is Romney’s whole candidacy in a nutshell. The word "severely" is almost always used colloquially in a pejorative or clinical sense ("severely unhappy," "severely handicapped"), yet he’s using it here in a boastful way, as if to say that he can be as strident and unreasonable as he thinks the crowd needs him to be to give them comfort on his ideological bona fides as nominee. I go back and forth between being annoyed that a guy as intelligent as he is can’t even fake his identification with the right more effectively and feeling sympathy for him that he can’t connect with his audience on a gut level.

Philip Klein was not persuanded either: "His speech was an exercise in market-tested checklist conservatism – telling the audience what they wanted to hear." Weigel adds:

My theory for why Romney delivered the line with the extra zest: He said "conservative" 26 times overall in the speech, as if using a Jungian mind trick to convince us that he had checked every possible box.

The awkward phrasing ("What the heck is a severe conservative?") reminded Erick Erickson of this bit from Chris Orr in 2008: 

Superman was born Superman. It’s Clark Kent that is the invented alias, the pose, the “costume.” And in the way Superman plays Kent–weak, self-doubting, cowardly–we see his critique of the human race. It occurred to me that the same is true of Romney’s desperate, if never terribly persuasive, impersonation of a conservative Republican. That persona–angry, simple-minded, xenophobic, jingoistic–is exactly what Romney (who is himself cultured, content, and cosmopolitan) imagines the average GOP voter to be.