A surprisingly large number of Americans just don't like Mitt Romney: In a new ABC/Washington Post poll, 50 percent say they view him unfavorably, versus 34 percent who see him favorably — the worst numbers for a leading presidential candidate since 1984. Nevertheless, he's almost certain to be the party's nominee, and he's clearly pretty popular among the GOP establishment: Conservative superstar Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) endorsed Romney Wednesday night, and former President George H.W. Bush is endorsing him Thursday. And, though it might seem implausible to some, Romney has a share of dedicated, hardcore fans, as David Fahrenthold details in The Washington Post. The "Romniacs" are "the sasquatches [also known as Bigfoots] of American politics," he says, but they exist. A look at the "rumored, hoped-for, so elusive that they can seem imaginary" Romney superfans:
Who is the typical Romniac?
It's not who you might think. We're not talking about "Wall Street bigwigs or paid campaign operatives," Fahrenthold says. Many Romniacs, "but not all, are Mormons like Romney," and most of them are also "fired by a deep dislike of President Obama." They're spread all over the U.S., in states Romney won, like Florida and Arizona, and ones he didn't, like Georgia and Colorado. Ann Coulter is perhaps the most famous, but the only thing that Romniacs really share is their "powerful — and unusual — excitement for a candidate who struggles to excite anybody else."
What draws them to Romney?
Some are jazzed because they believe he's the candidate best positioned to beat Obama. But "in general, the things Romniacs love about their candidate are the same things that other people just like about him," says Fahrenthold: "His lack of emotional swings. His business experience. His big family." A Longmont, Colo., city council member notes approvingly that Romney is "pretty much a geek."
How many superfans does Romney have?
It's hard to tell, but there don't appear to be that many. "We are in the thousands," says Judi Rustin, 61, of Arizona, who shows her devotion to Romney through poetry. And yet, while thousands of Rick Santorum fans have demonstrated their fervor by buying his campaign's $100 souvenir sweater vests, only 346 people have snapped up the $30 official "Mitt Romney Super Fan" T-shirt. Dixie Cannon's weekly Romney Radio web broadcast, from the 42-year-old business executive's home in Tampa, drew 155 listeners last week. And the forum at Romniac.com has a total of seven members.
How else do Romniacs show their excitement?
Georgia resident Joe McCutchen, 72, wears Romney stickers every day, answers his phone with "Romney for president," and challenges other Romniacs to a devotional contest called a "Romney-off," which he says he always wins. Locksmith Diana Rae Walter tries to turn her West Palm Beach, Fla., customers into Romney devotees while they're waiting for keys to get made. And then there's the Orem, Utah, couple who named their son after Romney in 2008. Even in Utah, the mother, Jennifer Nielsen, tells The Washington Post, most people "don't think anybody would name their kid Mitt."
Should Romney worry that he has so few enthusiastic followers?
No, he should be happy he makes anyone's "heart flutter," says Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic Wire. He may only have 346 official superfans, but "346 is more than zero." And who knows, maybe "we'll all wake up with Mitt mania" as soon as he wins the nomination, says Tina Korbe at Hot Air. George H.W. Bush was elected despite having few superfans, so "the paucity of these people doesn't in and of itself mean it's impossible for Romney to win," says Paul Waldman at The American Prospect. And hey, if Romney does pull it off, at least a few people will have their "unreasonably high hopes" for him dashed when he disappoints, as nearly all presidents do.