MANNO: Candidates hang up campaign costumes

All done, voters. Take a hot bath, chug a Vitamin Water, climb out of your caves or do whatever you need to do to bring that blood pressure down. And just be happy about one thing: the angry politician level has now dropped from “super freak” to “elevated” across the board. Your candidates can now take off their running-for-office masks, revealing slightly less deceptive faces beneath.

Candidates get caught up in the hype during election time. Historically, Dems and Repubs alike will push toward the middle and grab the undecided vote, often ditching their track records and heading straight for the votes. But if they already have some moderate ideas – a la Mitt Romney or John McCain – the shift is often to please their party base instead. I give you Election Romney, ripping himself up from his roots to grab as many votes as possible.

We saw this effect in 2008, when John McCain ran as a conservative crowd-pleasing Batman with a kooky Alaskan Robin. Closer to the Adam West version than the Christian Bale, McCain the candidate totally covered up McCain the “Maverick” politician of yesteryear – someone who was willing to cross party lines and fight for his constituents. With legislation like the McCain-Feingold Act to limit campaign finance and work with the late Ted Kennedy, McCain established some moderate talking points that attracted undecideds.

And after his election escapades, McCain became more likeable. He’s since replanted himself on the right, but hey, nothing lasts forever.

I can only hope to say the same about Mitt Romney in the next few months. The man who once claimed he’d be “better than Ted (Kennedy) for gay rights” has since been buried in the need to appeal to conservatives – in a so-called “Etch-A-Sketch” manner – during his presidential run. Once they’re out of the limelight, previously presidential hopefuls have less to please and more wiggle room to speak.

The election stovetop can now cool. Tagg Romney can keep his hands in his pockets, and maybe Mitt Romney can go back to acknowledging the fact that his Massachusetts health care reform and Obamacare are fraternal twins.

… I think I just popped a blood vessel. Why am I still so worked up? Well, I guess these effects will take a few weeks to set in.

I’m just happy the Romney mask can come off. Ironically, I feel like I can get to know him a little better. As can the mask for Obama – maybe to a lesser degree, as he’ll still be on the tube from time to time. And Joe Biden’s mask had a scary smile, so hopefully that’ll be gone, too. For now, let’s keep in mind Paul Ryan still has his day job and look forward to a couple election-free years.

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