Matthew Norman: Some tips for Mitt as he hits our shores

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The putative next leader of the free world arrives today, and you will all join me in extending a warm welcome to Willard Mitt Romney. The saviour of the Salt Lake City Winter Games of 2002 is in town both to look presidential and as a member of the "Olympic Family" (the planet's second most lovable, after the Mansons).

One hopes he has a ball at Friday's opening ceremony, though you have to be concerned for Mittens in such company. He is famously clueless at the small talk required to grease the wheels of a glittering party.

With David Cameron, he should steer the chat towards equine humiliation. The PM, having snubbed Romney on his recent visit to the US, is obliged to make amends now that the stalled recovery in US job creation gives him a decent shot at the White House. Romney will be fine reassuring Cameron that he is a foreign-policy pragmatist, and not the kill-'em-all hawk he played in the Republican debates with the Am-Dram cast of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. But you know how awkward it is, soon after a formal meeting, when you bump into the same guy by the lift, and a humorous shared experience is the way to go if things gets sticky.

"Hey, David, I saw your guy Coulson and that Brooks woman have been charged," is the opening ceremony ice-breaker of choice. "Which reminds me, I have a funny story about being embarrassed by a horse!" If Raisa's jockey edges nervously away, Mitt must grip his arm and call wife Anne over to tell him about her horse, Rafalca, which is competing in the Olympic dressage.

When the Democrats put out an attack ad featuring the animal doing those equestrian balletics that make dressage so captivating, the Romneys dismissed this as a foolish distraction. With the GOP desperate to paint Obama as an elitist, nothing could be less relevant than a Republican candidate worth some $250m, whose wife blows hundreds of thousands on such a Joe Sixpack kinda sport. What is dressage if not Indy car racing for the quarter billionaire?

Also at Friday's bash will be Mr Tony Blair. With him, Romney should discuss religion – specifically, the agony of being a devout follower of a proselytising faith he cannot mention in public. Despite three years as a Mormon missionary in France and later rising to the rank of bishop, Mitt doesn't do God either. If the religious chatter breaks down, "I hear you also get a rough time for hiding your tax arrangements" could get him out of a hole.