Ever since Bill Clinton famously donned some cool shades and riffed on his saxophone during his presidential campaign, the power of candidates using non-traditional campaign outlets has been clear.

Want to woo young voters? Slow jam with Jimmy Fallon.

Want to win suburban women? Hang out with the ladies of The View or have the candidates’ wives write some blog posts for women’s sites.

While President Obama and Michelle have been making the rounds on daytime and late night TV, Mitt Romney has been absent. Weirdly absent. Sure, he’s sent his wife Ann “women tell her what I should know” Romney to be part of the cultural aspect of this presidential election. But Mitt has pretty much avoided that road, even though he’s gone through the motions of acting like he wants to make himself available to pop culture audiences.

He’s steered clear of SNL, the Kids’ Vote show on Nickelodeon, the annual BlogHer conference, and The View. What’s he afraid of? Should we even consider voting for a presidential candidate who thinks it’s a better idea to run  campaign ads on cable channels running the Andy Griffith show rather than engaging with cultural influencers?

What’s the fear?

If you can’t take on a few “sharp-tongued” ladies or Big Bird, what are you going to do with Vladimir Putin or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Romney is scared because the things most of us like to watch, or at least know enough about to understand, aren’t part of his world. But it’s a world he will have to deal with if he’s elected president. He’ll be responsible for his those who love Hillbilly Handfishin‘ as much as Downton Abbey.  If can’t engage in the world and understand culturally relevant references, or see the value in appealing to audiences who have a different life experience, how on this earth does he think he can run a country that loves Honey Boo Boo?

Someone apparently clued Romney in to Friday Night Lights, but his attempt to boost his campaign with the show’s catch phrase “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose” was a bust.

So can a man who has made the conscious decision not to engage with 21st century pop culture be someone who can lead this nation? I’m not expecting any Romney photo opp with Lady Gaga and her meat attire, but at a certain point, if you’re a person who wants to lead Americans, you have to be part of the culture they live in.

By ignoring the world of what’s current, Romney has forgotten one important thing — pop culture hates a vacuum. If you don’t participate in it voluntarily, it’ll find a way to bring you in that you might not like.

Without that pop culture connection, you’re just a fish with bicycle.

Image via iStockphoto