Whistle stop train tours date back to early American politics. As the railroads pushed west, so too did politicians.
The open platform stump speech or private railcar chats evoke the sort of nostalgia captured during Gov. Mitt Romney's five-day Every Town Counts tour with pictures of the candidate, his wife, and would-be running mates dishing out ice cream and flap jacks.
It's the sort of down-home, everyman feel candidates hope helps them connect with voters. It's also the sort of authenticity dogging Romney's personal style since his failed run in 2008.
Last week, an email from Andrew Clark, Deputy Digital Rapid Response Director, laid out the Midwest swing as a platform to "talk to voters about his plans for the economy and America's future.
A map of the tour lays out 14 cities in six states considered in play for the presidency, save those in Michigan. My home state's been solidly blue for 24 years.
However, the elephant in the room could not be ignored.
Clark's email went on to state: "President Obama’s speech yesterday trying to 'reboot' his campaign was a flop; meanwhile, Gov. Romney is excited to continue pressing forward, talk to voters, and lay out his blueprint for a dynamic American economic recovery."
Despite Clark's assertion, Obama's announcement to cease deportation of young undocumented immigrants certainly took some wind out the magic tour bus' sails.
The issue met Romney square on at his first bus stop in New Hampshire where he said: "We have to find a long-term solution, but the president's action makes reaching a long-term solution more difficult. If I'm president we'll do our very best to have that kind of long-term solution."
Credit Image: © Matthew Cavanaugh/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com
The issue continued to dominate throughout Father's Day weekend. Sunday's Meet the Press focused heavily on the issue.
Unlike the last Republican to take the White House, Romney's not made inroads with the Hispanic voting populace, and Obama's pivot (however politically motivated) could prove key in certain states.
While folks have yammered for weeks, if not months, about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as a possible running mate, the bus tour seems to be focused on key players Romney's likely to see as safer bets: Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Smart money bets on the one with the least amount of "wow factor" with the greatest amount of vetting.
Portman's clearly the most underwhelming, but he's only been elected to the Senate since 2010 and if we've learned anything from the last GOP ticket -- vetting in the national spotlight during the race can be fatal.
With all the heavy lifting Romney's done just to get the numbers looking so perky, the last thing he needs right now is a risky VP selection.
Erica Holloway is a BlogHer contributing editor and principal of Galvanized Strategies, a San Diego-based public relations firm. Contact her at erica (at) galvanizedstrategies (dot) com or follow her @erica_holloway.
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