Prior to 2008, one of the things you could count on in every presidential campaigning was subtle Republican attempts to imply that the Democratic candidate was wimpy, soft, maybe even girly. And if the Democrat was just a little bit light in the loafers then maybe that meant that if you voted for him, you were too.
Then came 2008, when the Republicans were faced with a candidate they couldn't quite make that argument about. Sure, their guy was a war hero, but that was 40 years ago, and now he just seemed like a grumpy old man. The Democrat, on the other hand, was young, black, and famously cool, hanging out with movie stars and almost never caught looking goofy or wearing a silly hat. Women swooned over him (remember "I've Got a Crush On Obama"?). To me, the moment that most exemplified the 2008 campaign was when Obama went to Kuwait to visit the troops, and met a few hundred of them in a gym. Someone brought out a basketball, and Obama, who played on his high school team, walked up to the three-point line and drained it on his first try to the cheers of the crowd. I always pictured the staff in McCain headquarters watching it on TV with pained expressions on their faces, somebody muttering, "Oh for Christ's sake" under his breath.
A lot has happened since then, but the idea that Obama is a cool customer remains endlessly maddening to conservatives, at least judging by the response I've gotten when I've written about this before. Which brings us to a rather remarkable article by Kevin Williamson in the National Review. You think Mitt Romney is an awkward, Ward Cleaver type about whom no one would ever make an "I've Got A Crush On Mitt" video? Au contraire, says Williamson. "What do women want?" he begins by asking. And the answer is, they want them some hot, steaming Mittster:
You want off-the-charts status? Check out the curriculum vitae of one Willard M. Romney: $200 million in the bank (and a hell of a lot more if he didn't give so much away), apex alpha executive, CEO, chairman of the board, governor, bishop, boss of everything he's ever touched. Son of the same, father of more. It is a curious scientific fact (explained in evolutionary biology by the Trivers-Willard hypothesis — Willard, notice) that high-status animals tend to have more male offspring than female offspring, which holds true across many species, from red deer to mink to Homo sap. The offspring of rich families are statistically biased in favor of sons — the children of the general population are 51 percent male and 49 percent female, but the children of the Forbes billionaire list are 60 percent male. Have a gander at that Romney family picture: five sons, zero daughters. Romney has 18 grandchildren, and they exceed a 2:1 ratio of grandsons to granddaughters (13:5). When they go to church at their summer-vacation home, the Romney clan makes up a third of the congregation. He is basically a tribal chieftain.
Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.
From an evolutionary point of view, Mitt Romney should get 100 percent of the female vote. All of it. He should get Michelle Obama's vote. You can insert your own Mormon polygamy joke here, but the ladies do tend to flock to successful executives and entrepreneurs.
This might read like satire, except what would Williamson be satirizing? His own side's insecurities? No, I think he's sending a message to conservatives, even if it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, that they're still the masculine party and their champions are still masculine men. Which is more important than ever, given how long it's been since they've been able to ridicule a Democratic presidential candidate for being prissy. Now all Romney needs is to go down to Crawford and have George W. Bush take him out to clear some brush, then maybe try on a flight suit and work on his strut.