Keith Olbermann made a great catch on MSNBC tonight: In awaiting a victory speech from Nevada caucus winner Mitt Romney, Olbermann noticed the candidate, well-known for being perfectly groomed and coiffed, shedding his blazer en route to the stage and rolling up his sleeves before being introduced and taking the mic for his speech. Noted Olbermann: "Something that you rarely get to see: Two actual pieces of political stagecraft....he first took off his jacket and then he rolled his sleeves up slightly so we can get that full working-man candidate thing going. Normally they do not let us see anything like that with cameras rolling." This particular piece of stagecraft comes with a bit of baggage thanks to bumbling former FEMA head Michael Brown, who was famously urged by an aide to "roll up his sleeves" in New Orleans to look like he was "more hard-working." Ouch. Watch Romney's transformation below:
It should be noted that Olbermann's co-anchor, Chris Matthews, later on asked Romney directly if he was "loosening" his image and if he was offering a more "loosey-goosey" Mitt Romney (yes, he said "loosey-goosey" — and that's a phrase he doesn't toss around willy-nilly!). Romney laughed it off, telling Matthews that he was "overanalyzing"; interestingly, though Matthews' question was general, Romney took it to the specific, noting that he was in Florida, it was hot, and so "I took off my jacket and rolled up my sleeves." Coincidence, or aide who saw MSNBC and relayed the message to his boss just in time to airily it on camera? Romney's national press secretary Kevin Madden was on MSNBC shortly after the Olbermann commentary, so perhaps he had a feed in his ear. Subsequently on MSNBC, Brian Williams said that he, too, had been "watching the packaging" where Romney was concerned and had noticed that Romney had relaxed his notoriously neat and buttoned-up persona recently with fewer ties and a more casual look. "It may also be a hot night in a hot room in Florida," said Williams, but he, too, was inclined to come down on the side of loosey-goosey.
Two points: (1) Both Matthews and Olbermann separately picked up the Olympic medal analogy that Romney now-famously applied to himself after Iowa and subsequently New Hampshire, underscoring that it's become one of the dominant memes of the campaign. He's been mocked for it, but it's proven a pretty apt analogy, especially for this campaign where everyone seems to be collecting medals in a variety of, er, metals (and after various displays of mettle. Sorry!). (2) It should be noted that Romney's speech about his wife was very sweet, even if we can all figure out that "turning sixteen" meant that she was fifteen. He introduced her as "my sweetheart," and even if that sleeves thing is a put on, that part seemed genuine (as it always does).
Update: NBC's Ron Allen was traveling with Romney yesterday, and he was wearing a suit. People in the background were wearing pants and long-sleeves and jackets; somewhere else in Florida, Rudy Giuliani was also in a suit. More to the point, Mitt was in Jacksonville yesterday (at least when he gave this speech, though he may have been elsewhere to deliver the remarks above because he changed clothes, though his wife is wearing the same outfit.). Either way, the temperature in Jacksonville was 54°, with rain in the evening and a low of 35°. Hot night in a hot room in Florida? Seems unlikely.