Romney gets personal, more likeable

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Story highlights

  • Romney showed a personal side of himself in his RNC acceptance speech
  • "The key word is they've humanized him," strategist says
  • The speech had heart, but not enough soul, says a CNN contributor

Republicans expended enormous effort last week to make Mitt Romney more appealing to everyday Americans, and strategists believe that could pay dividends as the campaign moves into its next phase.

In his speech at the Republican National Convention that was aimed at changing the dynamics of his campaign and painting who he would be as both a candidate and a commander-in-chief, Romney showed a more personal side.

"I think the Romney campaign needs to continue what it started last night. It's done a really good job, thanks to the candidate, of defining itself," said David Morey, vice chairman of Core Strategy Group and an adviser to Obama's 2008 campaign.

A Romney adviser told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that Romney "didn't need to move a mountain...[they] needed to push forward...[to] move the ball down the court and he did."

"The key word is they've humanized him," said Mike Paul, public relations strategist at MGP and Associates and a former aide to one-time Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.

Opinion: Did Romney gain ground?

In helping to do that, political strategists say Romney made himself more likeable -- a benefit to a political campaign.

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    "It's been long established that voters want a president they're comfortable with," Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor with the Cook Political Report told CNN in May.

    Since Ronald Reagan, the candidate who connects with voters personally has won every White House race. In fact, none of the winning presidential candidates had claimed victory with likability numbers as low as Romney's.

    Romney spent most of his professional life in business as a private equity executive and carries himself like a corporate chief executive, analysts say, which may be an asset in the complex world of governing but appears not to resonate with voters looking for a common bond or a personal connection during difficult times for millions.

    In a rare moment for the reserved candidate, Romney teared up when he spoke about his parents.

    "Mom and Dad were married 64 years," Romney said, "...every day Dad gave Mom a rose, which he put on her bedside table. That's how she found out what happened on the day my father died. She went looking for him because that morning, there was no rose."

    That memory made an impact with Paul.

    Analysis: Romney goes personal

    "I don't think there's a person in the country, whether you love or hate the guy, who didn't get a little touched when he choked up talking about his parents, especially about his mother," he said.

    Romney also revealed more about his faith.

    "We were Mormons and growing up in Michigan; that might have seemed unusual or out of place," Romney said. "But I really don't remember it that way. My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to."

    Romney continued the theme following the convention, flying to Louisiana on Friday to tour damage from Hurricane Isaac. Romney, who was invited by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, met with local officials and relief workers and shook hands with a man along a flooded roadway with a sign that read, "Mitt's Our Man."

    With polls showing a dead heat between the candidates coming out of the Republican convention, the White House is either candidates' to lose, Morey said.

    "This campaign will be won or lost by which candidate defines themselves, the stakes and the future best," Morey said. "And right now, Romney's taking a big step in defining himself. Obama's essentially already done that.

    "I would argue whoever does that bolder and faster will win the election, and this election is still, in my judgment, up for grabs."

    But with that chapter of the race closed, Paul says voters could expect a different campaign moving forward, and he would be surprised if Romney allowed himself to be vulnerable again.

    "The Republicans are historically very good at using negative campaigning," Paul said.

    Romney offers Reaganesque themes in GOP nomination acceptance

        Election 2012

      • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden after his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

        A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
      • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage after his victory speech at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

        The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
      • Even though voters indicated to pollsters that their financial situation is the same or worse than it was four years ago, they put their trust in the president.
      • US President Barack Obama addresses a crowd of supporters on stage on election night November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. President Barack Obama swept to re-election Tuesday, forging history again by transcending a slow economic recovery and the high unemployment which haunted his first term to beat Republican Mitt Romney. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

        The president faces a long and familiar set of challenges after riding a wave of support from moderates, women and minorities to victory.
      • Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama and the Senate from the Democrats.