“[Americans] have been told a bunch of terrible things about him – that he doesn’t care about people like you, that he ships jobs to China, that he’s a wealthy plutocrat married to a known equestrian,” former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour told reporters Monday at an event in Tampa hosted by the GOP polling group Resurgent Republic.
In a way, then, Tuesday’s speech by Romney’s wife, Ann, is also significant, as she gives voters a perspective on the soon-to-be Republican nominee that no one else can. Expect to hear the story of a devoted husband who cared for and comforted his wife during serious health challenges.
“American people are going to see him and his family up close, and they are going to see that it’s a family that sets a high standard for all of us – that you’d like your kids to turn out like this,” says Mr. Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi.
Romney’s five grown sons – all launched in their own careers, all family men with a combined 18 children – have been present in the media this week and at events surrounding the convention, adding their personal testimonials to their father.
Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, agrees that Romney needs to build up voters’ comfort level with him as a person, but that may not be enough for them to entrust him with the presidency. Romney still needs to convince voters that he has a workable plan to turn the economy around, Mr. Scala says.
“A lot of those voters feel as if Obama hasn’t lived up to his promise – especially working-class whites who weren’t comfortable with him from the get-go,” he says. “But they’re not especially comfortable with Romney either.”
White working-class women, in particular, pose a challenge for Romney, and “he needs to find a way to distance himself from the Republican brand without turning off his base,” Scala says.
That brand took a major blow last week when Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee in Missouri, made a comment about women's bodies being able to prevent pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” The messy spectacle of the Republican establishment, including Romney, trying unsuccessfully to get Congressman Akin to drop out made for a week of bad headlines – and opened up a fresh line of attack by Obama and the Democrats eager to exploit their wide lead among women voters.