Stylistic extremes at top of GOP presidential race

By Nancy Benac

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 4 2012 9:21 a.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, in Elko, Nev.

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney listens. Newt Gingrich lectures.

Gingrich wants to colonize the moon. Romney vows he'd fire anyone who came to him with such a harebrained idea.

Romney is appreciated for clear-eyed analysis, Gingrich for dreaming big.

Gingrich is knocked for being a blowhard, Romney for drifting with the political winds.

Romney tries to humanize himself, with sometimes cheesy results.

Gingrich is all too human; just ask his wives.

By now it's clear that the Republican nomination contest is showing the nation stylistic extremes rarely seen in modern presidential politics. Put simply, the race, at the top, is between a madcap professor who most appreciates the flow of ideas when it comes from himself and a buttoned-down CEO who likes to fire up a PowerPoint presentation and sound out everyone in a room.

If past is prologue, here is how Romney and Gingrich presidencies might look:

"I'm a business guy," Romney likes to say. He's not just talking about his policies.

President Mitt Romney would wield charts and graphs, and study problems from every angle.

Beth Myers, his chief of staff when he was Massachusetts governor, remembers when a group came to Romney with the consensus answer to a problem.

"Who's going to present the other side?" Romney wanted to know.

He promises "sobriety, care, stability."

"I'm not a bomb-thrower, rhetorically or literally," he said recently.

Soon after Romney became governor, his Harvard Business School credentials and penchant for PowerPoint clashed with the commonwealth's old school culture of glad-handing.

Veteran lawmakers complained about lack of access to Romney, a perception that wasn't helped by his decision to commandeer one of the Statehouse elevators, barring the public, lawmakers and reporters from using it during his four-year term. The elevator became a symbol of his aloofness. (It was reopened to the public after he left.)

Romney's efforts at control went beyond that.

He routinely used velvet ropes to mark out his travels around the Statehouse and prevent citizens from walking into the outer reception area of the governor's office.

On the other hand, he met legislative leaders of both parties every Monday, rotating the location among all their offices. He pledges similar outreach to lawmakers in Washington if he becomes president.

Judging from his past in business, as governor and as chief of the Salt Lake City Olympics, there won't be much schmoozing when a President Romney comes calling on Capitol Hill.

"We wouldn't have a half-hour meeting with 15 minutes of social talk," said Thomas Trimarco, Romney's secretary of administration and finance during his last 18 months as governor. "He wants information. He wants data. That's how his mind works. That how he makes decisions."

Cindy Gillespie worked with Romney for nine years, at the games and as an aide in the governor's office. She said: "There's no point in being a 'yes' person with Mitt. It wouldn't get you anywhere."

But Kenneth Bullock, who was on the Olympic board, said Romney was overly controlling and tried to grab all the glory. "If you listen to him, he created the vision, he orchestrated it, and he saved it."

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