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2012 campaign

Mitt Romney's 'Secret Weapon' in Florida

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hugging Joni Scotter of Iowa during the primary campaign

Photograph by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hugging Joni Scotter of Iowa during the primary campaign

Florida is a critical swing state in this election, so many Republican political consultants have worried that Mitt Romney was jeopardizing his chances by adding Paul Ryan to the ticket. Ryan is the author of controversial budgets that cut Medicare, which, political experts predicted, would scare seniors and cost Romney votes. But Ryan has been the running mate for three weeks and Florida polls don’t show any drop in support. Romney actually leads Obama among Florida seniors.

At a Bloomberg/Washington Post breakfast on Thursday morning, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered an intriguing theory as to why Romney is exceeding expectations: The Republican nominee’s being congenitally square and unhip, while frequently mocked by the elite media, connects well with Floridian seniors.

“Mitt did really well in the primary but he won a majority of the 65-plus voters, and I have a theory about this,” Bush explained. “I think there’s a cultural phenomenon that helps Governor Romney among 65-plus voters. So all of the denigration of his—you know, he’s not a hip guy, and the fawning over the president for being hip—”

Someone asked: like his taste in music—which Ryan mocked in his speech Wednesday night?

“That’s an example of it,” replied Bush. “Or when, I remember [in] one of the primaries he sang [The Ballad of] Davy Crockett, and the—you know, the cultural elites just ridiculed him to no end. How dare—you know, what a fool. Every one of those 65-year-old folks have kids that had the little Davy Crockett hat with the tail on it [more likely, given the 1950s craze, the oldsters themselves wore the caps], and I think there’s a little bit more kind of connectivity with older voters because Mitt—you know, he is what he is, and he’s kind of culturally more compatible with people that are from—from a different way. … So there’s a cultural tie there that could be a secret weapon.”

Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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