Better Half

08.28.12

Romney Campaign Counts on Ann

The candidate’s advisers admit their man just isn’t very good at selling himself. Howard Kurtz on why they’re banking on his wife to warm up his image.

Mitt Romney can't do it by himself.

His top lieutenants admitted as much here in Tampa as the storm-delayed Republican convention finally gets underway.

"Governor Romney, he doesn't feel comfortable talking about himself," his pollster, Neil Newhouse, said Tuesday at an event sponsored by ABC and Yahoo. "He's just not built that way." Telling his own story is something "he just doesn't feel right doing."

The result is that it will fall to other speakers this week to "fill in the blanks on Mitt's background," Newhouse said. By Thursday night "you're going to learn more about Mitt Romney than anybody wanted to know."

The leading surrogate in that regard is, of course, the candidate's wife, who addresses the convention Tuesday night. "The thing about Ann is, she's so smart, she's so warm, she's such an amazing person," said Beth Myers, who led the vice-presidential race for Romney. "To watch her go from private person to public person ... has been really heartwarming." Myers said Ann Romney will deliver "a speech from the heart."

Senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom maintained that "Americans are hungry for more information about Mitt Romney," and that "Ann Romney opens up a door" to information about him as "a devoted father, a husband, a grandfather."

It is hardly unusual for a candidate's spouse to humanize him. The need may be particularly acute in the case of the former Massachusetts governor, who is guarded and reserved. Ann Romney, by contrast, told CBS This Morning about the pain of the miscarriage she suffered—not the kind of subject her husband would mention.

The admission of the nominee's limitations by his brain trust dovetails with Romney acknowledging in interviews that he doesn't expect people to love him and "I am what I am." This could amount to a classic lowering of expectations, or a recognition of reality that Romney will never come close to matching President Obama in the charisma department.

During the same session, ABC's Jonathan Karl asked about a New York Post report that Chris Christie turned down an offer to be Romney's running mate after concluding he would have to step down as New Jersey governor. "I'm not going to talk about the vice-presidential search ... Just not going to happen," Myers said. Christie has ripped the report as false.

Asked about Tropical Storm Isaac stealing attention from the convention and Obama planning to address the nation about the storm, Fehrnstrom said: "We don't view the weather as political. Certainly a storm of this magnitude deserves the attention of the president of the United States."