Mitt Romney's Super PAC, Restore Our Future, has emerged as a dominant force in the 2012 election campaign, the "Death Star" that obliterated a series of opponents in expensive and largely negative ad buys adding up to $39 million during the Republican Primary, and the looming nine-figure challenge to President Barack Obama's financial edge.
But Restore Our Future is also the source of some frustration inside Romney's campaign, and puzzlement outside it, for another reason: It's name makes no sense at all. "Restore Our Future" isn't just the sort of "generic patriotism and meaningless obscurity" that inspired WNYC to create a random SuperPAC name generator in January.
It's an actual contradiction, an inscrutable zen koan for this election cycle. It is, concedes a top Romney supporter, "a head-scratcher."
The Democratic consultant Paul Begala, who heads Obama's counterpart group Priorities USA, goes one step further.
"It drives me fucking crazy," Begala said. "It just doesn't make any sense. It's like saying, 'I'm out in the garage restoring my 2020 Ford car.'"
The origins of the title are the source of some mystery in Republican circles. Charlie Spies, the former Romney aide who runs it, declined to comment after, he said, consulting with his the others running it.
The message behind the PAC's name appears to be the same straightforward and effective question underlying Romney's attacks on Obama: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?
But in straining to square the conservative longing for a restoration of some kind — Glenn Beck's 2010 rally on the Mall, for instance, was titled "Restoring Honor" — the PAC's creators have also brought to the fore Romney's most difficult contradiction: How an old-fashioned man, evoking a better past — and caricatured by his foes as a character from Mad Men — can can win an election that will be, as all elections are, about the future.