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Opinion

South Carolina, get ready for Mitt Romney

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DEAR SOUTH CAROLINIANS,

It’s been four years since your last presidential primary - and four years is an evolutionary eternity when it comes to Mitt Romney. So I’m here to help you decipher the 2012-model Mitt.

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You’ve probably wondered: What’s happened to his necktie? And why is he wearing jeans instead of a fancy suit? Don’t worry. Mitt hasn’t fallen on hard times. Dressing down is his way of signaling he’s just folks. Don’t be surprised if, by the weekend, he’s sporting a tin of Skoal in his pocket.

Listening to his stump speech, you’ll likely find yourself thinking: Lord, he sure goes on about his favorite patriotic songs. What is he running for, president or band director?

I felt the same why when I first heard it. Who suspected that “America the Beautiful’’ had 2,173 verses - and that Mitt knew them all? Perhaps you’ve even heard dark mutterings that he belongs to a secret choral society whose clandestine goal is to replace “The Star-Spangled Banner’’ with a more singable anthem. Don’t fret on that score. If such a conspiracy were afoot, Ron Paul would have sniffed it out and sounded the alarm.

Here’s what Mitt’s up to. He hopes his speech will leave you all tingly with patriotism - and thus cranky as a hungry bear when he tells you that President Obama wants to change America into one of those dreadful European countries with no purple mountains or fruited plains. Some place, like, say, Holland, where the government evidently makes everyone ride bicycles and heat their homes with windmills, and where the gray, oily, not-so-shining North Sea is always rearing its head up the way Mr. Putin did when Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska, looking for ways to sneak through the dikes and splash bitterness and envy and socialism all over the landscape.

Why would Mitt want you to think that? This gets as complex as a John le Carre novel, but here goes: Because what Obama really wants is to make America more like Massachusetts. Specifically, more like Mitt made Massachusetts. You see, ObamaCare isn’t copied from a European country. No siree. It’s modeled after RomneyCare - and that’s made Mitt frantic. After all, the moment Obama came out for an individual mandate, which back then was an idea acceptable to Republicans like Romney and Newt Gingrich, conservatives decided they loathed it because it was an idea acceptable to Obama. That doesn’t make much sense but, hey, that’s politics.

You might also be perplexed when you hear Mitt declare that he didn’t want to run for president again, but that Ann insisted he had to. Holy Elevated Uxoriousness, Batman! What kind of milquetoast is he if he can’t even tell his wife he doesn’t want to be president anymore and that, if she’s so keen on the idea, she should run herself?

That’s a puzzle, if you take Mitt at his word. But actually, Newtie had it right the other day when he said that Romney’s reluctant-citizen-called-to-civic-duty pose was “pious baloney.’’ Mitt first ran for office back in 1994, and he’s been at it pretty much ever since. Why, you South Carolinians may recall that barely two years into his term as governor, he was down in Spartanburg, testing the waters for his first presidential campaign.

Which brings me to Romney’s claim that Obama apologizes for America. Mitt’s smart enough to know that’s not true. But remember how, on that same visit to Spartanburg, he made fun of his home state, joking that “being a conservative Republican in Massachusetts is a bit like being a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention’’ and so on? One thing he learned is that voters don’t like it when their CEO talks them down to a far-away audience. And so now, cagey campaigner that he is, he’s accusing Obama of that same kind of thing.

Anyway, guys, the campaign is in your court now. Have fun, and don’t fret if you’ve forgotten that last verse of “America the Beautiful.’’ Thanks to the 2012 Mitt, you’ll be hearing plenty of it.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com.
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