Much the same way that owners grow to look like their dogs, sometimes spokesmen begin to resemble their candidates. That's certainly true of Kevin Madden, Mitt Romney's national press secretary, though his neat, Romneyesque looks are quickly belied by a thick New York accent. Shifting seamlessly between sound bites and genial (if sometimes vulgar) humor, Madden, 35, has kept the campaign from getting too rattled by Romney's occasional malapropisms and gaffes. The effortlessness with which he laughs off Romney's missteps (when Romney told Fox News that his favorite novel was a sci-fi tome by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Madden chided breathless reporters, "It's. A. Book.") is a tactic as much as it is a natural part of Madden's personality. "With humor," he says, "you can disarm your opponent and can put things in perspective."
The approach works because Madden combines it with an unusual level of accessibility that goes against the modern political-campaign theory of strict "message control." Madden's availability and conviviality--he often says that Romney's teetotaling ways mean "there's more left for me"--help shore up the image of a campaign where everything is going just fine, no matter what you hear to the contrary. Says Madden: "The biggest mistake press secretaries make is that they view the press corps as the enemy. I view them as a conduit." That's not the same, it should be noted, as viewing them as a friend.