By Eric Thomas

There is nothing quite as inspiring as when a favorite son comes home. Here in Detroit, the cockles of our hearts warmed because Mitt Romney is finally back in his hometown again. The air seems cleaner. Dogs and cats are getting along. Birds are even singing sweeter since Romney announced he was a Detroiter. Maybe I’m laying it on a bit thick here, but not by much.

Mitt Romney has four houses, all of them the size of shopping malls and not one of them in Michigan. But now that the Michigan GOP primary has turned out to be crucial, Mitt is standing in line at Slow’s and screwing Red Wings flags into all his campaign town cars. This could be the most pathetic pander any of us have ever seen. The “drive my car past abandoned houses” commercial made me want to slap him. Showing off economic decay is a cheap trick best left to Michael Moore.

Most tragic of all this: Romney could have been a good candidate. His record as governor of Massachusetts is strong. He was fiscally solvent and kind of a renegade. Remember when we liked “maverick” candidates who actually told the GOP to take a hike? Like Reagan? Well, once upon a time, that was Romney. Look up his Massachusetts debates on YouTube. As you watch these videos from Romney’s “moderate past,” it doesn’t seem like every word out of his mouth is carefully crafted. He is confident, and shoots from the hip.

It wasn’t until he re-invented himself as a right-wing Christian that all the trouble started. What’s worse, he has now been stunningly wrong on the record. He postulated that the GM bailout would spell doom for the American automotive industry. GM just boasted record profits. Not bad for a company that has been around for more than a century and was being shuttled to hospice two years ago.

Romney 2012 is a mere shell of his former self. He begins every event with a furrowed brow of concentration. As he talks, he sprays a thick and sticky layer of platitudes with his eyes open ghoulishly wide — giving him the look of a man who is constantly aghast. In Florida he started a messy habit of singing, which for some reason continues. If I had been on the campaign staff, he would have made it two words into “America the Beautiful” before the mic cable was knifed in two.

These campaign exhibitions by Romney have caused conservatives turn to Rick Santorum, who might be fire and brimstone but at least the former Senator from Pennsylvania actually believes what he is saying. Santorum has social conservative views that are to the right of Fred Phelps and served in a congress that spent by the truckload. He has a creepy habit of talking about “wombs” — a lot — and a creepier affinity for sweater vests. But he is honest.

This country rewards risk takers that roll the bones and win. George W sold himself as a gunslinger, and we ate it up. Obama’s ascendancy was written in the wind when he was the only Democrat … anywhere … that forcefully came out against the Iraq war when it was introduced. The only person who got away with that triangulation garbage was Bill Clinton and unless you have that kind of skill you need not tread.

Romney is now painfully ignoring this lesson and while he may spend the next couple of weeks traipsing around the Great Lakes, thundering his “Michigander” or “Detroiter” bone fides, it will not matter. He will say all the right things and those words will float in the air before clattering to the ground and dissolving into abrogate.

True “Michiganders” have one thing that no economic slump or industrial meltdown can ever take away and it’s the void that Romney so desperately needs to fill.

We are authentic.

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