New York Times reporter Ashley Parker provided another spray of nitpicking at the Romney presidential campaign: 'Mitt Romney Has Some Down-to-Earth Tastes, He'd Like You to Know.'
Parker took a swipe at Romney on August 23 for expanding his house: 'Mitt Romney has never claimed to be a middle-class man of the people. But the news that he is planning to quadruple the size of his $12 million oceanfront property in the La Jolla section of San Diego, first reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune on Saturday evening, came at a particularly awkward time.'
On August 24 Parker again portrayed Romney as an out of touch rich guy: 'Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts stirred a bit of a tempest when he said on the campaign trail in Iowa that 'corporations are people, my friend.' Some called the remark tone deaf, saying it fed into the perception of him as an out-of-touch millionaire. But on the campaign trail in Keene, N.H., Mr. Romney showed no signs of distancing himself from the remarks."
On Thursday, Parker, with the help of some of Romney's 'regular guy' postings on his Twitter account, furthered the impression of Romney as a rich phony (a tack the paper rarely employed in its coverage of liberal Democrat candidate John Edwards):
Like the stars in Us Weekly, Mitt Romney wants voters to know that he is just like them.
Mr. Romney has tried the new $4.39 Carl's Jr. jalapeño chicken sandwich ('delicious'), celebrated the Reagan Library debate with fast-food burgers and fries (again, Carl's Jr.), and dug into a Subway flatbread sandwich while sitting in an airport terminal ('better than the usual campaign diet of morning donuts').
In recent weeks, Mr. Romney's renovation of his $12 million home in the La Jolla section of San Diego has reinforced the fact that he is a wealthy man, forcing his campaign to work harder to avoid the implication that he is out of touch with the concerns of working people. (His quip in June to a group of jobless people in Florida that he, too, was unemployed did not help on that front.) Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Mr. Romney's main competitor at the moment, is conspicuously trying to draw a contrast between his own roots (humble) and Mr. Romney's (less so).
Mr. Romney, meanwhile, has begun something of a self-initiated product-placement regimen in his campaign - to sometimes awkward effect - branding himself with less-than-luxury everyman labels.
His effort, and the response to it, highlight a vexing problem for Mr. Romney. Although he is becoming increasingly confident and relaxed on the campaign trail, he still sometimes appears as if he is trying too hard to connect, straining to show that even his perfectly coifed hair can fall out of place. Sparring with voters at town-hall-style meetings, he can come off as a scolding crossing guard, and some of his efforts at humor - like the time he pretended that a waitress in a New Hampshire diner had pinched his bottom - have fallen notably flat.
Parker proved herself on top of the big stories of the day:
Mr. Romney's name-dropping of Carl's Jr. has been so stark that, when a reporter called the chain's corporate headquarters to confirm the price of a jalapeño chicken sandwich, the director of public relations replied, 'Ah, you must be following Romney.'
Jalapeno-gate! If only Times reporters had been as assiduous in running down the facts of Obama-care, instead of cheerleading for its passage.