Politically speaking, picking Lieberman seemed like a brilliant move too. He is a former Democrat, and was previously the running mate of Al Gore. I have to admit, I loved the idea of having two independent-leaning politicians on the Republican ticket against the steadily left-leaning Barack Obama. I thought this would pull moderates like me – there were thirty million or more of us floating around the country -- in the party's direction.
But by the time I went to bed on the night of August 28, 2008, I had already been told that Joe Lieberman and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, hadn't made the final cut. That left me assuming – to the point of certainty -- that Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, would be chosen. There was a slight possibility it could be Tim Pawlenty, who had a great head of hair. But aside from this fact, and that he was the governor of Minnesota, I knew nothing else about him.
My focus had been on Romney for months. He was a minor obsession of mine, I have to confess -- the politician whom I most loved to watch and ridicule during the primaries. He'd given me so many sublime moments of laughter. It was incredible how he kept switching his story, and backpedaling, and making my father out to be an old has-been and tired Washington insider.
YouTube had an irresistible Romney clip that we'd all seen and laughed over. It showed a heated squabble between the governor and a chubby, semi-dorky AP reporter named Glenn Johnson at press conference inside a Staples office supply store. Johnson is rumpled and sitting on the floor of Staples, legs stretched out, one earbud in his ear, his laptop attached to him like a college student. Romney is standing over him, super-erect, his hair gelled and perfectly black. He's wearing a plaid shirt and a Windbreaker, and like so many of Romney's "spontaneous" moments on his campaign, he seems so unnatural.
From his spot on the floor, Glenn Johnson keeps drilling away with questions about Romney hiring Washington lobbyists on his campaign, while Romney becomes more and more frustrated.
Romney's campaign manager eventually loses it, and pulls the reporter aside. "Don't be argumentative with the candidate!" It's truly priceless, and I loved how Romney, who always came off as slick and unreal, had been undone by such a visual mess of a guy. I'd seen the clip at least fifty times and laughed every time. (Much later, I ran into Glenn Johnson on the street in New York and told him how much I loved his YouTube clip. For the record, he'd lost an extreme amount of weight by then and looked great. )
It was hard to adjust to nice thoughts about Romney -- or to stop laughing at him. But that's politics. You could loathe somebody during the primaries and then, suddenly, consider him a good guy and shrewd politician as soon as you've beaten him and he's joined your team. Just a few months ago, Romney's campaign and ours were intense rivals. But now that we were supposed to be the best of friends, I needed to put jokes aside and focus on the tremendous positives Romney would bring to the ticket. He was handsome, smart, and extremely experienced in matters of the economy, an issue that would eventually become lethal to my father's campaign. Also, I had met the governor and some of his campaign operatives and have to admit that they were a lot more easy-going and real than I ever thought possible.