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February 24, 2012

Romney’s Stadium Daze

Here’s the point about the Romney stadium photo story. Political candidates have been partitioning off small portions of stadiums and arenas for years without anybody raising the roof about it.


(click for stadium view)

Just above, for example, is a photo of a McCain event Getty photographer Mario Tama sent me back in ‘08 to clue me in on the scale and of this kind of staging. Now, if Romney had more gravitas, or the 2012 GOP campaign featured more weighty candidates deliberating in a more substantive way on more weighty issues, I’m sure that greater credence would more than offset yesterday’s viral fixation on an otherwise standard bit of stagecraft and there would have been only minor chatter and snickering about this.

Instead, however, Romney’s (now widely perceived) lack of substance made the trappings thoroughly relevant as a reflection of the emptiness and the overselling of the candidate, his campaign and the GOP race overall.

So let others attribute the media angle and the viral gawking to the power of social networking and the Twitterverse, or the fact that Romney leaked most of the contents of his “major economic address” over the previous week so that the media had nothing much else to focus on. The real explanation though comes down to a much simpler equation: Substantial candidates draw the focus to themselves and the content of the message while insubstantial candidates (or, ones largely perceived that way) leave other minds and eyes to wandering.

In this last shot, which not only blatantly emphasizes the empty arena, but makes it look like an overreaching Romney can’t draw a crowd beyond the programmed few, it seems that Romney’s perceived lack of substance is not just being called out but hung around his neck.

(ending slightly revised 2/25 – 8am PST)

(photo 1: Byron York / Twitter via The Atlantic. photo 2: Mario Tama/Getty Images. February 2008. Illinois.  photo 3: Scott Olson/Getty Images. caption: Members of the Detroit Economic club gather to hear a speech by Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during a luncheon at Ford Field on February 24, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.)

  • Enoch Root

    Of course, stadia are easily-managed, easily-scheduled, covered areas designed for audience and crew to move in and out with relative ease. It’s no surprise they use part of a stadium for this kind of ‘rally.’

    What creeps me out about that last photo, though, is the way the audience is walled off in a neat rectangle of clothed-over barriers. I suppose the cloth makes sense if you imagine how oppressive it would look as just bare galvanized steel tubing. Still, though, Romney has his compliant audience sitting in the pews, far far away from even the *idea* of a glitter bombing or mic check.

    American politics is getting more and more creepy.

  • psychohistorian

    This really is funny.  Surely they could have brought in local Mormons to fill the place….just bad scheduling on someones part.

    • tinwoman

       Not too many Mormons in Mi.  The militia evangelical types do not likethem.

  • tinwoman

    1. Romney’s family raised him in MI.  So, him not being able to fill a stadium in what amounts to his home state is a big deal.

    2. The crowd is arranged this way so that photographers/propaganda bullsh*t artists can aim the cameras from behind, making it look like the candidate is talking to a bigger crowd.

  • bks

    Has there ever been better illustration of the 1%?


  • ohcomeon

    Man, his campaign team is brilliant!  Almost as brilliant as debuting a tax plan that raises taxes on the poor and lowers them on the rich in the most economically depressed city in America.  Go Romney!

  • Glenn

    Note the dominant complexion of the guests – they are overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, white.

    In Detroit.

    • Ralfast

       Past 8 Mile….

  • Anonymous

    I think Michael’s point that “believing is seeing” is well taken. In this instance, people expected to see an incompetent staff, a little man behind the curtain rather than the Great and Powerful Oz, etc. Sure enough. The evidence to support those expectations rose to the surface and dominated the visual coverage.

    [Wow! Sorry about the mixed metaphors!)

    Basically, what’s been said by Michael and those of us who are commenting is what visually literate people think of all the time. So why didn’t the Romney campaign think of it? They didn’t have to promote this as a major foreign policy speech. They didn’t have to arrange it for a major venue. They had time to change. So che succede?

    Who’s in charge, candidate or staff? Is Romney being incompetently “handled”? Is he himself incompetent about choosing whom to hold close and to rely on for guidance? Why would one expect a Romney presidency to be different from a Romney campaign?

  • Michael Shaw

    Scarabus’ comment about Team Romney is pretty fascinating. Should they have anticipated the stadium framing? If it’s hard to believe — most of us summing things up from general admission — I’m thinking their belief in their man makes it’s near impossible for them to relate to his minimization.

    • Anonymous

      Or, instead of being blinded by their commitment to their guy, the Romney Campaign is seeing-impaired by its lack of commitment to anything other than acquiring the presidency. Flipper extraordinaire Romney really has a foreign policy?

      The people working for Romney are working for a paycheck, not for a cause. On the other hand there are millions of people in this country that feel a connection to our current president’s  life story and willing give of their time and resources to promote his success because of this connection. I don’t see that level of support in the Romney voters and supporters that don’t already have well-paid tax advisers.

      Booking a football stadium for a major foreign policy speech by a “leader” without  dedicated followers is simply a case of believing your own bullshit. BHO could fill that stadium, Bob Seger used to fill stadia in Michigan when no one else in the country had heard of him. Willard “Mitt” Romney? They’ve heard of him.

  • Riverrafting

    Looks like a good stadium.Surely there are better things to arrange there rather than political conference.

  • Pingback: Staging Politics: Beyond White House Access, the Photo Op is the Larger Issue

  • mr_teem

    Nope. Ford Field is downtown. He was below 8 Mile.

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