Republicans Want to See Romney's Personal Side

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the American Legion National Convention, Aug. 29, 2012, in Indianapolis.  Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the American Legion National Convention, Aug. 29, 2012, in Indianapolis.
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    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the American Legion National Convention, Aug. 29, 2012, in Indianapolis.
    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the American Legion National Convention, Aug. 29, 2012, in Indianapolis.
    TAMPA — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will be in the national and international spotlight Thursday when he delivers his acceptance speech before the party's national nominating convention in Tampa, Florida. Supporters hope Romney will reveal more of his personal side in the speech.

    Political experts like to say that in terms of American elections, the vote for president is the most personal of them all.

    Public opinion polls show a close race between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. But they also show the president remains more likeable than Romney, something the Republicans are trying to shift with this week's convention.

    Romney's wife, Ann, spoke about her husband's personal side in a speech to delegates.

    “No one will work harder," she said. "No one will care more. And no one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live.”

    Republican Congressman Tom Price of Georgia says Ann Romney wants to reintroduce voters to her husband after months of political attacks, first from Republican rivals and then from the Obama campaign.

    “Explain in a way that nobody else can the human qualities of this man, of Governor Romney, and was really wonderful," said Price.

    Democrats like to portray Romney as a hard-headed and hard-hearted businessman, more of a robotic CEO than a politician who cares about people. Their job has been easier because of the Republican candidate's own focus on his qualifications to fix a struggling economy.

    George Washington University analyst John Sides says Romney's image problems began during the Republican primaries when he was attacked by some of his rivals.

    “Even as early as January Romney was not viewed as favorably as Obama on certain dimensions, for example, dimensions that have to do with empathy or an idea like caring about people like me, or caring about ordinary people. Obama's had that advantage," said Sides.

    But defenders like Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah point to Romney's work in the Mormon church as first a missionary and then as a bishop. Hatch, who is also a Mormon, says he and Romney often deal with with fellow church members and their personal problems.

    “I can tell you what Mitt went through," said Hatch. "People with every problem in the world, and you are giving 30 hours of your time a week for free to help them, and you get so you love people.”

    Others who know Romney well include delegates from Massachusetts, where he served as governor. Don Wong says Romney's standing will improve once voters around the country learn more about him.

    “I hope they know him as well as we do and that they give him the vote because we need him," said Wong.

    Many conservatives scoff at the notion that Romney has to show more of a personal side to the country. Roger Hedgecock is a syndicated conservative radio talk show host from San Diego, California, who is broadcasting from the Tampa convention.

    “We don't expect to know what kind of underwear they wear," said Hedgecock. "You know, all this stuff that has come about in the recent elections is superfluous nonsense to a whole lot of Americans who want to know more importantly how is he going to unleash business to create jobs.”

    Conservatives may feel they know enough about Mitt Romney, but experts say undecided voters may want to hear a little more about his personal side before voting in November.

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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