On Capitol Hill, he is Mitt Romney, the clean-shaven senator from Utah.
But on Twitter, with a virtual pencil moustache and perhaps a cape, he becomes… Pierre Delecto.
In a weekend interview in the Atlantic supplemented by some investigative digging at Slate, Romney was revealed to have kept up a secret online presence for eight years, since the time of his run for president against Barack Obama.
Though he lurked anonymously online, the Mormon church elder did not morph into a troll or any other species of virtual rogue. Pierre Delecto’s 10 tweets since 2011 offered mild criticisms of Donald Trump and polite defenses of … Mitt Romney. The account also “liked” content tweeted out by Romney’s kids.
The campily incognito flavor of the Twitter handle falls somewhere in the middle of nicknames past political figures have chosen for online exploits of radically various intent.
To weigh in on Twitter in the early days of the Robert Mueller investigation, former FBI director James Comey called himself “Reinhold Niebuhr”, after an intellectual hero.
Former US representative and candidate for New York mayor Anthony Weiner used the nickname “Carlos Danger” to exchange explicit messages with young women. He was convicted of transferring obscene material to a minor and sentenced to 21 months in prison.
A bit rakish and dashing, Romney’s alternate online ego is also a confusing mix of a common French given name and a Latinate family name: delecto means “delight”.
Asked by the Atlantic if he was indeed behind the account in question, Romney confirmed: “C’est moi.”