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Romney gets personal, more likeable

By Allison Brennan and Thomas Hanson, CNN
updated 3:52 PM EDT, Sat September 1, 2012
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

Washington (CNN) -- 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?

Mitt Romney's entire RNC speech
RNC declares Romney and Ryan nominees
Romney's speech: Did he win the crowd?

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

"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

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