Mitt in the Afterlife

Certainly you’ve seen them, or at least one — that steady drumbeat of oddly normal and yet somehow surreal pictures of post-defeat Mitt Romney that keep showing up everywhere. Here, gassing up the minivan with hair and posture right out of a screen test for The Hangover 5. There, with the family at the local Pizza joint. Later in rollercoaster mode at Disneyland.

Is it something about Romney? Or is this just the first post-non-presidency of the Twitter era. Because we didn’t see anything remotely like this with John Kerry or John McCain or Al Gore for that matter. More than just a Twitter meme, it’s like a 21st century version of the old post-demise Elvis sighting from the late 70s and early 80s. And I think that’s because Romney’s vanished entirely from official media existence — no television interviews or appearances — and yet he’s seemingly everywhere where ordinary people can get a snap of him with the smartphone.

In perfect Buzzfeed fashion Andrew Kaczynski put together a list of “15 People Who Just Saw Mitt Romney” and reported it on Twitter. As the phenomenon has grown though it’s become clear that at least a decent number of these people couldn’t possibly have actually seen Romney. I saw Romney at a midnight 7/11 in Tampa. I saw him at a Hooters in Boise. I saw him working on a fishing boat outside of Delacroix. I saw him shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

Part of what gets my attention about these photos — and perhaps others are the same way — is that Romney seems a lot more normal in his political afterlife than he did before November 7th.

Clearly political defeat has been a transformative experience for Romney’s hair if nothing else. But no pictures yet of Mitt hopping off the car elevator or berating the staff on the private jet. It’s all actually kind of down to earth for a guy worth a few hundred million dollars. It’s all oddly conventional and domestic. And yet it’s always Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney buying cereal at the CVS. Really? Or at a prize fight? What famous person without ties to some criminal underworld have you seen ringside at a prize fight since the mid-1980s?

And that’s the thing. Romney’s somehow like the anti-Zelig. He’s seemingly everywhere. Popping up in the oddest places and yet not remotely ever fitting in or blending in. In every new setting he sticks out palpably as Mitt Romney. Not ‘Where’s Waldo’ but ‘Here’s Waldo!’ Right there. You can’t miss him.