Romney Seeks to Emphasize His Human Side

Monday, 12 Dec 2011 12:04 PM

By Dan Weil

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Some Republicans have complained that presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn’t show enough passion and humanity on the campaign trail. So now he has begun to turn over a new leaf, Politico says.

In just the past few days, he has talked about his father, discussed experiences he had while working as a missionary that he had never publicly revealed before, and brought up his Mormonism publicly for the first time in four years.

The change comes as the former Massachusetts governor has been eclipsed in the polls by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The Georgian generally refrains from bringing up his personal life, perhaps feeling the vulnerability of two divorces.

Romney has a vulnerability himself on the personal side – his huge wealth. But even there, he is trying to create a connection with voters who aren’t wealthy.

At a campaign event in New Hampshire Sunday, Romney discussed his life as a missionary in France. He was living on $110 a month. “Most of the apartments I lived in had no refrigerators,” Romney said. There were no showers either.

“If we were lucky, we actually bought a hose, and we stuck it on the sink, and we’d hold ... the hose and the big bucket underneath us in the kitchen and wash ourselves that way,” Romney said. “And so, I lived in a way that people of lower-middle income in France lived and said to myself, ‘Wow, I sure am lucky to have been born in the United States of America.’ ”

Some of the apartments didn’t have toilets either, Romney said. “We had instead the little pads on the ground. You know how that works, all right. There was a chain behind you with a bucket. It was a bucket affair. I had not experienced one of those in the United States.”

Romney began the discussion of his missionary work at Saturday’s debate — a first in this campaign.

When debate moderator Diane Sawyer asked how he could understand personal financial strain, Romney said, “I was able to serve my church overseas, and to meet people there that had very difficult circumstances in their life.”

Romney cited domestic experience as well. “I also spent time in this country, serving as a pastor in my church, and, again, having the occasion to work with people that were really struggling. I saw marriages under great stress.”

Romney’s effort to emphasize his human side began last week with television ads portraying him as a family man and increased appearances on the campaign trail by his wife, Ann. He even used Ann to deflect the flak he has taken for offering a $10,000 bet to Texas Gov. Rick Perry during Saturday’s debate.

“After the debate was over, Ann came up and gave me a kiss, and she said, ‘A lot of things you do well and betting isn’t one of them,’ ” Romney said.

Larry Finder, a Houston fundraiser for Romney who learned about the missionary work in a conversation with one of Romney’s sons several weeks ago, approves of his new strategy.

“I remember saying, ‘I wish that would go public so that more people would hear about it,’” Finder told Politico. “The fact that he’s talking about his religious background not only humanizes him, but the story is endearing.”

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