The cliché: Alright, we ad-Mitt that a well-placed pun here and there can Mitt-igate the effects of a boring news cycle. But we have to blow the whistle. It began last week when Ben Smith at Politico coined a term to describe GOP Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney's low profile: the Mittness Protection Program. Alright, Ben, that's pretty good. Or at least, a lot of other journalists liked it. Then Frank Bruni wrote in his New York Times column today that Romney "did, in fact, emerge from Mittness Protection and materialize (or is that Mitterialize?) in Iowa on Wednesday." Not as strong, Bruni, but we recognize you might just be poking fun at the whole pun thing. Later, in his roundup of what to expect at the Iowa debate tonight, Jim Newell at Gawker wrote that "Mitt Romney doesn't have to do anything. Romney isn't even participating in the Ames Straw Poll, but is in town for kicks anyway. Meaning, if the other non-overall-frontrunners start taking shots at him, he'll quietly accept them without daring to strike back aggressively and risk saying something abnormally 'weird' that hurts his national standing. Alas, it will be a Modest Mittens tonight."
Where's it from: Well, apologies to Ben Smith, but the first-to-a-pun award goes to Wonkette (Newell's former home), where they've actually been calling Romney "Mittens" since at least the 2008 presidential primaries. This was in keeping with their attempt to find a cute/mocking name for all the candidates. Hillary Clinton became "The Clintons," Barack Obama became "Barry Hussein," and John McCain became "WALNUTS!" (apparently because of his cheeks.)
Why it's catching on: Nicknames, in general, seek to make light of a politician or at least point out something telling about him or her. With "Mittens," Wonkette evokes a kitten, seeming to imply that Romney is meek and a little too "Leave it to Beaver" for their taste. Smith's pun, too, capitalizes on the idea that Romney is shying away from a fight.
Why else? The media likes to have a little innocent fun, now and again, and once someone decides to break out the puns, pretty much everyone wants in. It doesn't hurt that Mitt is a nice short name, easily pun-ified. But, if the media really wants to mock Romney's name, they'd do well to remember that his first name is actually Willard. And where there's a Willard, there's a way. Okay, okay, we'll stop.