Rich Yeselson rubbishes attempts to find the "authentic" Mitt beneath his public persona:
Whoever he is, the real Romney is mostly irrelevant. Romney, like all of us, performs the roles he must within the public institutions he inhabits and the different dramas which he plays a part in enacting. There are reasons why he performs on the stages he does—he’ll never be any kind of liberal—but he doesn’t just play the same character every time. Each of those institutions will have a different set of observers with which the individual engages.
Ben Alpers counters:
I think authenticity talk has political significance beyond the crude levels of character assassination and political hagiography. Among its other functions:
• It's a way of discussing how much one can trust what a particular politician says.
• It's a way of describing the cultural fit (or, more skeptically, the imaginary cultural fit) between a politician and his or her potential (primary or general) electorate.
• It's a shorthand for a host of questions about character (another important concept whose concrete existence is hard to pin down).