This cartoon took way too long to produce. I started several different gags with which I became unsatisfied halfway-through and thusly scrapped, but even fine-tuning the background coloring of this one took an unusually long time, considering how little of it there actually is.
This was one of the gags I didn’t complete. I imagined it as a commentary on how much effort goes into making a political candidate’s speech and movements appear effortless and natural, while at the same time distracting from his or her faults. Romney’s a good jumping-off point for jokes about that because of how stiffly he continues to come across, even after millions of dollars’-worth and a lifetime of preparation. Other cartoonists have drawn parallels between the primary process and dating, and there are probably a few well-known cliches from that field relating to desperation and trying too hard which apply to Romney’s public persona.
Those of you old enough to have been paying attention for this long may remember similar criticisms of Al Gore during the 2000 election. He was frequently made fun of for being humorless or “robotic” going all the way back to his term as Bill Clinton’s Vice President–I remember a joke from The Simpsons in 1993 or ’94 that had Gore listening to that song that goes, “Celebrate good times… come on!” and replying in a monotone voice, “I will!” The irony of that is since then, Gore’s worked with some of the same writers and producers on several episodes of Futurama, and they’ve praised his performance and sense of humor on the DVD commentaries. I’ve also heard from several other people that the former V.P. is surprisingly loose and charming off-camera, in contrast to the woodenness of his political image.
Maybe my own memory’s just not that good, but I feel like Romney’s much worse off in this department than Gore ever was. His prepared remarks always sound awkward, and when forced to ad-lib or caught off-guard, his natural instincts appear to favor coldness, cruelty, and a very short temper.
Still, it’s better than whenever he tries to tell jokes…
Anyway, I had the idea to summarize Romney’s “stiffness” with a reference to the dummies used in crash tests for automobiles. It seemed appropriate, given that the Michigan primary fast approaches, and could be a make-or-break moment for the candidate: He grew up in the state, but his stronghold there has been weakened by abysmal debate performances and his own calls to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
The vehicle he’s driving here is a Cadillac Escalade, chosen because it’s considered symbolic of opulence and waste in popular culture, and I’m told Escalades are very unsafe, even compared to a lot of other SUVs.