Mitt Romney, Now With More Human

Mitt Romney has apparently realized that people don't like him much, so he's working to come across as less robotic.

Mitt Romney has apparently realized that people don’t like him much, so he’s working to come across as less robotic.

That notion was the opening theme of today’s “Morning Joe” and the network’s First Read column hammers it home.

Beginning with Romney’s speech on Tuesday night, we can point to four examples how he and his allies have begun to retool his biographical message, trying to expand it beyond the simple “economic fix-it man.” So in his address on Tuesday night, he talked about his father’s humble roots and past work as a carpenter. (It was a little forced and the “pointy end forward” nails example is not his best stump moment, but we digress). Then the campaign released a statement yesterday commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Salt Lake City Olympics and reminding everyone of Romney’s role with it. (“I was deeply honored to have been asked to lead the Olympics and am proud that the games were such a memorable success,” Romney said in the release.) Then, campaigning in Atlanta, he talked about his time as a Mormon lay pastor, something he rarely does. (“In that capacity, I had a chance to work with people who lost their jobs, in some cases, or were facing other financial distress.’) And finally, his son Tagg tweeted an article about how Romney rescued a 14-year-old kidnap victim (a story we heard more about in the ’08 race than the ’12 one). You add up these four things, and it’s an obvious attempt in a 24-hour span to humanize Romney and add more texture to his biography — beyond the guy who’s good at giving a PowerPoint presentation.

I don’t claim to have any special insights into Romney’s personal life but my strong sense is that this “retooled” Romney is the real Romney. That is, he’s a strong family guy who’s strongly shaped by religious faith and its command to minister to those less fortunate–and yet comes from a cultural tradition that counsels against bragging about one’s good works.

He’d hoped to be able to sail on to the Republican nomination on his strength as a manager and fixer without having to resort to anything more personal and schmaltzy than singing “God Bless America.” Now, it’s clear that he’s not going to be able to do that and he’s reluctantly–and perhaps a little awkwardly–opening up.

When Newt Gingrich was his chief threat, his campaign quite reasonably decided to focus on Gingrich’s bountiful weaknesses. Now that Rick Santorum has seemingly become the “conservative alternative,” he can’t do that. Santorum’s weakness is some rather extreme positions on social issues that make him unelectable in the fall. But Romney can run against those, since they’re actually popular with a wide swath of the Republican nominating electorate. And, while Gingrich is inherently unlikable, Santorum comes across as a really decent guy with a compelling personal narrative.

So, Romney has no choice but to dispel the notion that he’s an out-of-touch rich guy with no personality, no core beliefs, and no soul. It may be too late to do that and he may simply not have it in him to open himself in public.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. PJ says:

    I’m looking forward to the photos of him in a tank and hunting

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, please.

    The problem Romney has is not something to be solved with retooling. It’s personality. I’ve been saying this for months: no one loves him. And he is going to need a bunch of people to love him. That’s not tweakable. He’s been running for office for six years and his numbers in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado show double digit drops across the board from his last showing.

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    Mitt Romney has apparently realized that people don’t like him much, so he’s working to come across as less robotic.

    A bit like one of those 50’s/60’s sc-fi movies where alien robots have invaded earth disguised as humanoids and need to practice more? JJ I’m sure Romney is personally a good family man and quite likeable financier who made a lot of money out of financial engineering and minimises his tax exposure. I know a few, I’ve worked for a few, some of them are a hoot, some are very interesting people, but it’s not the point is it? And your theme here with it’s implication that Romney is donning yet another disguise is the stuff of late night comedy shows.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    “…he talked about his father’s humble roots and past work as a carpenter…”

    Someone needs to explain 3 things to me:
    1). How does his father’s background make Mitt more human.
    2). If we are going to talk about his father, can we talk about his grand-father who fled to Mexico in order to practice polygamy?
    3). How does raising the taxes of 125 million dirt poor Americans make Mitt a human being?

  5. James H says:

    I was with Romney right up until he said, “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Mitt’s a carpenter because his father hammered nails in exactly the same way that I’m a Vietnam veteran because my dad was.

  7. de stijl says:

    I’m reserving judgement until I see his Voight-Kampff results.

  8. Fiona says:

    Probably too little, too late.

  9. Hey Norm says:

    Seriously…he comes across as if he’s hiding something because he is…who he is. If he opens up and begins to talk about Mormonism…it’s going to get weird. And it is not going to help him with the base…a bunch of religious bigots.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    What? Did the Romney campaign find Data’s emotion chip?

  11. says:

    The phrases “This time he’s sincere”, “He’s really sweet on the inside” and “You don’t know him like I know him” keep running through my head.

  12. EddieInCA says:

    Mitt’s been running for President for seven years. His biggest problem is that the more people learn about him (especially those in the GOP), the less they like him. He’s getting LESS votes than he did in 2008 with a weaker field.

    So much awesome…

  13. de stijl says:

    The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun beating its legs trying to turn itself over but it can’t, not without your help, but you’re not helping.

  14. Moosebreath says:


    “I’m looking forward to the photos of him in a tank and hunting…”

    You forgot wearing earth tomes, a la Gore.

  15. Barb Hartwell says:

    @PJ: I prefer to see him in a dunk tank

  16. Barb Hartwell says:

    I say not to fast This GOP primary race is so back and forth nobody knows who will be next. They all stink and nobody can decide which stinks the least.

  17. anjin-san says:
  18. jukeboxgrad says:

    Romney has no choice but to dispel the notion that he’s an out-of-touch rich guy with no personality, no core beliefs, and no soul.

    But that’s what he is. And faking sincerity is hard.

  19. DRS says:

    I’m waiting for his wife to give an interview and annouce he’s great in bed.

  20. Tillman says:
  21. jukeboxgrad says:

    There’s a pretty strong argument that Seamus Romney is more human than Mitt. Maybe Mitt’s best move is to run Seamus as VP.

  22. Derrick says:

    I can’t decide if I’m more excited about the IPad 3 or version 4 of the Mittbot.