Shrum: Mitt Romney winning because he looks pretty grown-up

Rick Perry should've read Chris Matthews' new book, says a veteran of countless losing campaigns

Published November 11, 2011 4:14PM (EST)

"Mitt Romney is the only adult in the room," according to Democratic campaign consultant Bob Shrum, who dutifully typed out a thousand words of campaign analysis for The Week. It is obvious but basically true, though if "the room" contains Jon Huntsman and Gary Johnson, it might be more accurate to refer to Mitt as "the only adult in the room willing to tell the kids that Santa is real even if he himself clearly doesn't believe it." ("The kids" are Republican voters and "Santa is real" is modern conservative dogma.) (Just go with me here.)

This is defining adult down. Mitt Romney is tall and has nice hair. He looks like a dad in a Cialis commercial. He's on a stage with smug adulterer Newt Gingrich, serial sexual harassment clown Herman Cain, crazy-eyed witch-burner Michele Bachmann, and out-of-date George W. Bush impression Rick Perry. So, sure, Romney, why not?

What went wrong for Perry, though? I mean besides the fact that he is pretty obviously both dimwitted and lazy. According to Shrum, who quotes the book at length, what went wrong for Perry is that he did not prepare for the debate by reading Chris Matthews' "lyrical new book 'Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero,'" which Shrum quotes at length.

I doubt Perry knows that history, and it's probably too late for him to read Matthews' book. He's either treated the debates as a drop-by or he's incapable of getting ready — which means he's not ready to take on Barack Obama or to grapple with the demanding decision-making of the presidency.

Ahh, nothing like a little logrolling to fill out a column. Matthews' book is referenced and quoted again at the end, for those keeping score at home. Matthews, who always made sure to mention the name of Shrum's memoir during Shrum's 2007 "Hardball" appearances, will, I'm sure, be grateful.

Shrum has never won a presidential campaign that he's worked on, by the way, but he is a very influential and important Washington person.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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2012 Elections Media Criticism Mitt Romney Political Books Republican Party Rick Perry