Magazine article The New Yorker

DOPPELGaNGERS

Magazine article The New Yorker

DOPPELGaNGERS

Article excerpt

On a recent Thursday, Mike Cote stood in front of a bathroom mirror in a midtown hotel, combing gray dye into his temples. Cote, who is fifty-seven, has a strong chin and, aside from a bit of a paunch, looks as much like Mitt Romney as anyone not named Taggart. He wore a navy Brooks Brothers suit with an American-flag lapel pin. "You gotta steam that jacket, dude," Louis Ortiz, who is sixteen years Cote's junior, said. "It's wrinkly." Ortiz, who wore a tank top that revealed multiple tattoos, picked up an iron and taught Cote the technique: "Hold it real close to it, but don't touch it. That's it. Hell, yeah."

Ortiz, a skinny man with jug ears and caramel-colored skin, finished applying his makeup: dark foundation, a birthmark, a powder that turned his lips a purplish hue. "Uh, y'know, yes we can," he mumbled, practicing his Chicago vowels. When he was finished, he looked so much like President Obama that the effect was eerie.

Dustin Gold, their manager, entered the room. "At five we walk over to Fox News to do Stossel's show," he said. With Cote and Ortiz standing in for Romney and Obama, the segment was to be a debate among third-party candidates: Gary Johnson, of the Libertarian Party; Virgil Goode, of the Constitution Party; and Stewart Alexander, of the Socialist Party.

Cote is a drywall finisher and an aspiring comic who lives in Ogunquit, Maine. "I was a hippie," he said. "Moved around a lot. Never finished college. Sort of fell into doing drywall. I never paid much attention to politics." Cote voted for Bush in 2004, and for Obama in 2008. "Friends started telling me, 'You look like this guy Mitt who's running.' So I put a video on YouTube. That's how Dustin found me."

Ortiz, who is from the Bronx, has a similar story: he had recently lost his job as a field technician for Verizon when people started joking that his picture was in the newspaper. He was skeptical, but he cut his hair, bought a suit, shaved, and looked in the mirror. "At that moment, I realized I had a new life," he said. "I always had a smooth way of walking. People always used to make fun of me for these big ears I got. Now I know there was a purpose to all that."

Fox had paid for Cote's hotel room and arranged car service for Ortiz, but the appearance on "Stossel" was otherwise unremunerated. …

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