TAMPA — Tin Man didn’t morph into a cuddly teddy bear at his Republican National Coronation, but through family videos and friends’ testimonials a clear picture emerged of Mitt Romney the family man anchored by his faith, a giving man who has spent a lifetime helping neighbors in need, a businessman who created more jobs than he destroyed, a roll-up-your sleeves leader who cares deeply about the future of our country.
Too bad most of the convention’s 30 million TV viewers missed the often emotional and heartfelt testimonials, which were not on primetime when the networks tuned in. Still, Romney’s speech on Thursday, in tone if not in substance, treated Americans to his kinder side.
And Ann “I love you, women!” Romney humanized her husband during her speech, as all wives in good marriages can easily do. She spoke of their own struggles as a young couple (hey, even those with stock options have to eat tuna and pasta to get ahead). Ann’s appeal to the undecided center-left women: Look beyond the GOP’s hard line on reproductive rights and tough talk on budget cuts that could hurt social programs and focus on your bank account and saddling your children, the next generation, with debt.
She proudly proclaimed: “I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage.’ Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer. A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”
So, yes, Ann delivered Tin Man his heart — or, more accurately, tried to show us the heart that’s always been beating under Mitt’s crisp shirt and tie. And it’s a good thing because in a tight race like this one, undecided voters don’t just look at policy points or what we policy wonks know are red-meat party platforms meant to appease the most extreme wing of any party (forget rape as an “excuse” for an abortion, electrify those border fences) and that history shows us president after president have ignored once they get elected.
No, a small but crucial number of voters look for an emotional connection, a gut call.
They pick presidents like they pick their doctors — not always based on skill and experience alone but on that person’s warmth, charisma, a je ne sais quoi quality. You want a doctor who takes her time with you and explains what ails you and how to fix it. You want a president in that same way, which is why Barack Obama wowed independents in 2008 with his “hope and change” rhetoric only, to now, as polls show, be losing them by double-digits in this stagnant economy to Romney. George W. Bush also captured independents for his first election if not his second. These men connected with independents looking for the “trust” factor.
The polls’ numbers-crunchers are now busy determining what kind of bump Romney got from the convention coverage. His likeability ticked up five points, to 31 percent, compared to Obama’s 48 percent “likeability” rating among registered voters in one poll. A four-day Reuters/Ipsos poll during the convention has Obama and Romney 52-50 in general favorability, still neck-and-neck statistically.