TAMPA, FL—From coast to coast, town to town, and in nearly every public meeting place and private residence across America, millions have been captivated, inspired, and in some cases moved to tears by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who now finds himself campaigning before a nation in the throes of full-scale Romneymania.
"The raw energy and enthusiasm Mitt Romney stirs inside people is like nothing I've ever seen," Youngstown, OH auto mechanic Chris Ritenour said Wednesday. "Everything he says resonates with Americans. His moving story of growing up privileged, his inspiring rise from moderate wealth to overwhelming riches, his thrilling work in the highest echelons of corporate finance—he really speaks to the heart and mind of the common man."
"I don't think there's been a presidential candidate this exciting and magnetic in generations, if ever." Ritenour continued. "I am a Romneymaniac."
As Romneymania has grown, the Republican candidate has crossed over from political figure to cultural phenomenon. Countless reverent portraits of Romney have appeared in storefront windows and on building facades throughout the country, often accompanied by one of the candidate's signature inspirational phrases, like "Let Detroit go bankrupt" or "Corporations are people, my friend."
Internet sources confirmed "Mitt" has become the top search term of 2012, while the blogosphere and social media sites have been dominated by discussions of the star candidate's endearing personality quirks, gossip about the relationship statuses of his five sons, and continual chatter over which designers his wife, Ann, wears.
In addition, commemorative plates and various other trinkets featuring Romney's likeness have reportedly been sold out for weeks.
"Mitt's firm belief in unlimited corporate campaign donations is what first got me really excited," said 48-year-old pipe fitter David Flores, adding that another reason he joined "Romney Nation" was because he found it "pretty cool" that Romney pays a lower income tax rate than he does. "Money is speech—that's what the First Amendment is all about. Finally, there's a candidate who speaks directly to me."
As primary season continues, Americans from all walks of life tune in loyally to Romney's stump speeches, with those in attendance so overwhelmed by the candidate's rousing oratory skills that many pass out from the excitement.
While surveys show Romneymania has swept across almost every demographic, Romney's appeal among the nation's youth, in particular, is nearly unanimous. Many young Americans acknowledged they had felt disillusioned by politics until hearing Romney's explanation of how his coordination of corporate funding for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics renders him uniquely qualified to be president, an assertion they said immediately revived their faith in American democracy.
"Simply put, when Mitt Romney speaks, he inspires people to be better," said political scientist Deborah Klein of Brown University, adding that given his effusive charisma, people are likely to follow the Republican candidate anywhere. "Anytime he meets factory workers on the campaign trail or stands at the podium in a debate, his reputation as a highly relatable man of the people is indisputable."
"It's easy to see why Americans can't get enough Mitt," Klein added.
During a stop in Tampa, FL earlier this week, Romney was seen whipping a crowd of thousands into a delirious frenzy with his beloved, decade-old talking points about how he is not a career politician. The candidate reportedly inspired optimism and confidence by explaining he "never actually supported an individual mandate for health insurance at the federal level," a battle cry that prompted the audience to chant his name for five straight minutes.
In a moment his supporters called "genuine" and "down-to-earth," Romney then told the crowd that he, too, is currently unemployed and truly understands the fear of being laid off.
"It's amazing to hear your deepest convictions articulated so poignantly by a politician," said out-of-work Denver resident Austin Matthews, 36, admitting he had never before encountered a candidate—or any human being, for that matter—who had connected with him on such a basic emotional level. "He comes right out and says that any acknowledgment of income inequality in the United States is driven solely by bitterness and envy from the lower classes and shouldn't even be discussed publicly. It's like he's tapped directly into the soul of everyday Americans."
"Mitt Romney is the voice of our generation," Matthews added.
At press time, Romney's latest Twitter post, reading, "Had a surprise guest at today's event—my grandson Miles," had been retweeted more than 150 million times.