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Mitt Romney, Dork

When I wrote this Romney profile last year, I remember pressing members of his inner circle on why they chose to run him as an arch-conservative rather than the relatively non-ideological technocrat he'd been when he was Massachusetts governor. The most candid answer I got was from Ron Kaufman (last seen getting batted around during the infamous Johnson v. Romney blow-up), who explained:

“It’s hard to say, ‘Vote for Mitt, he’s competent.’ That doesn’t have a lot of sizzle.”

But the Romney people have belatedly discovered that maybe GOP voters don't want sizzle after all. Time's Michael Scherer delivers the best summary I've read of the Romney relaunch (which has been several weeks in the making), explaining just how "Romney has allowed his inner dweeb to surface." Scherer's lead is great:

Mitt Romney's mind is a marvel — a calculating, evaluating, inquisitive, all-consuming consulting machine, formed on his CEO-father's lap, trained in Harvard's business and law schools, and perfected while making hundreds of millions in the cut-throat world of private equity investing. There is not a spreadsheet that does not pique his interest, not a bureaucracy he does not itch to streamline, not a widget factory he does not wish to understand.

"I'm so excited to see this product!" he exclaimed Saturday in Lutz, Florida, outside of Tampa, while visiting a company called Opinicus, which makes "Level D" flight simulators.

"I don't think I have seen a more impressive layout at a facility, and I have seen some extraordinary facilities," he gushed a few hours earlier, after touring a coupon-making ValPak plant in Largo.

"Unfortunately, the utensils are not as hard as they need to be," he said over lunch at KFC, where the cholesterol-soaked skin of his fried chicken was overwhelming his plastic knife and fork.

Granted, the real Romney--a rich, fitness freak--probably wouldn't be caught dead in a KFC; but even suddenly "authentic" politicians have to fake it a little bit.

--Jason Zengerle