A Reuters headline from yesterday about Romney’s Every Town Counts tour reads: “Romney small town tour preaches mostly to the choir. That’s by design: When he heard there would be protesters in Quakertown, he—like another frightened Republican, Eric Cantor—changed his itinerary. But Romney still included a Wawa stop, where he was oddly mesmerized by the technology and the chain’s moniker. Later, he told a crowd:
“Well, I went to a place today called Wawas. You ever been to Wawas? Anyone been to Wawas? I was at Wawas. I went in to order a sandwich. You press a little touch-tone keypad … you just touch that, and, you know, the sandwich comes out … it’s amazing.”
He sounds like he just got paroled after a decade in prison. A “touch-tone keypad”—is he thinking of the touch-tone phone, which was introduced in the 1960s? Nor is it “Wawas,” plural—especially because he only went to one, the one without the protesters. But it’s the wonder at the screen that makes it seem like George Bush Sr. and the supermarket scanner all over again, though Romney seems more brain-damaged.
Perhaps his team needs to prep him a little more carefully. Or maybe he should go to even smaller towns, keep a low profile. I have a few suggestions for places he might want to visit along with one small town he really needs to avoid, even though it was profiled by a successful novelist in the New York Times.
1. Tortilla Flat, Arizona. This town with a population of six is really more of a movie set than a town, so if Romney says something awkward, he could just pretend he was actually invoking an old Western, the way Reagan used to with his old movies. Now, true, Romney would have to brush up on his Deadwood or the like, and prep his ass muscles to react agreeably when he sits on the saddle bar stool at the local watering hole. But I think he can work this angle comfortably—just so long as they don’t put booze in his sarsaparilla.
2. Weeki Wachee, Florida. Mainly, I’d like Mitt Romney to go to Weeki Wachee so I can later watch an inane video remix of him saying the town name go viral. But aside from my puerile amusement, Romney would do quite well in Weeki Wachee. With a population of 12 and a main attraction of a natural springs water park, it’s wholesome family fun—which Romney is good at because he is actually a wholesome family guy. Weeki Wachee’s big attraction is the underwater show, where people gather around a huge tank and watch submerged “mermaids” go through water ballet routines. Think of the pop culture references Romney could make: Esther Williams! Busby Berkeley! Everyone would find him charming.
3. “Eureka,” Colorado. Here’s a place Romney should not, under any circumstances, visit: the small Colorado town described by novelist Antonya Nelson in a New York Times piece in 2010. Though she called it Eureka so no one would visit, it’s actually Bonanza, and here’s how Nelson characterizes the population:
I look forward to meeting my other neighbors, the ones Gail told us about—her fellow residents she either was or wasn’t speaking to. The lesbian couple who moved to Eureka after getting kicked out of Crestone, and then separated and stopped speaking to each other, becoming two more hermit inhabitants. The priest who drives over every Monday from Trinidad to escape his parishioners, using an alias and not answering his cabin door. The woman with the phone-sex service.
Advice to Mitt: RUN.
4. Venedocia, Ohio. If Ann Romney decided to travel with Mitt to Venedocia (“the smallest village in Ohio with its own home page”), they would simply own the place—and all 150 of its inhabitants. See, Venedocia is an old Welsh village founded by three immigrant Welsh families in the 19th century. Ann Romney is Welsh too: Her coal-miner grandfather came to the U.S. from Wales in 1929; she still visits family there regularly. The big celebration in Venedocia is the annual Gymanfa Ganu celebration at the local Presbyterian church. Ann would actually know what that means—and more important, stop her husband from saying it.
5. Bearcreek, Montana. This is the little town that could. It’s an inspirational campaign commercial waiting to happen. The mining town’s population fell to 31 in the 1970s, and industry was completely depleted. But the town council would not give up, and in 2000, Bearcreek was listed in the census as the fastest-growing city in Montana. And do you know why? All because of the tenacity of these people here, these individuals who believed in their town, who claimed their corner of the American dream and labored to keep it, these people who refused to surrender what their nation provided … Oh, sorry. I was channeling a presidential candidate for a minute. See? Works well.
6. Monowi, Nebraska. This town has a population of one: Elsie Eiler, who’s in her late 70s and runs the Monowi Tavern. She also keeps the keys to the library in case you want to check out a book. What in the world could Romney say to offend her? Given that the town doesn’t even have streets anymore—just furrows in grass where streets used to be—he’s unlikely to encounter anything as frightening as a Wawas with a touch-tone keypad. But does Elsie vote?
7. Final piece of advice: Don’t go to Centralia, and say, “Wow! You could fry an egg on this pavement! It’s amazing!”