A few of the kids in the crowd giggled nervously at Romney’s non sequitur before the candidate told them, “Thanks, guys,” and moved along.
A few minutes later, a baby was hoisted up for the most standard of campaign trail rituals: politician-meets-infant photo op. But Romney took the moment to make yet another outdated, and perhaps even more cringe-worthy, reference to urban pop culture.
“Hey, buddy, how you doing? What’s happening?” Romney said to the African-American child. “You’ve got some bling-bling there, too!”
In the countless hours I spent in Romney’s presence during his first White House run (and mostly from a greater distance during his second bid), I saw a man who was preternaturally upbeat, well-meaning, and kind to just about everyone he encountered, friends and strangers alike.
But I also saw a candidate who seemed by nature almost uniquely ill-equipped to appeal to the young and minority voters who ended up playing a key role in his electoral demise.
Members of the press who traveled with Romney in 2007 and early 2008 began slowly to pick up on what would become an established media narrative by the time Romney was the 2012 front-runner: The former Massachusetts governor didn’t just have a difficult time relating to young and minority voters, he often came across as a walking-talking time warp from the 1950s.