Who is Mitt Romney? It’s been an enduring question of the campaign even as the Republican primary field whittled itself down to one, and Romney has criss-crossed the country introducing himself to voters.
Observers guessed that Ann Romney would use her convention speech helping to answer that question. And though she described her loving marriage in her speech, she focused mostly on moms, and made vague blanket statements about how much Mitt Romney cares.
On the final night of the convention, though, Romney’s team brought out a strong line-up of the candidate’s close personal friends and associates, who told the kind of warm, humanizing anecdotes that have been missing from the campaign trail, where Romney often seems stiff and robotic. They proceeded to paint a picture of a caring boss, and a devoted neighbor and friend.
The theme of Romney, as a clergyman in his church in Massachusetts, helping those in his congregation during hard times came up several times.
One couple, Ted and Pat Oparowski, described how Romney often visited and “developed a loving friendship” with their son, who was dying of cancer.
“On one of his visits, Mitt discovered that David was very fond of fireworks. He went out and bought a box full of ‘BIG TIME’ fireworks that had to sit on the closet shelf because they couldn’t be set off in the city.”
“It was when our daughter Kate was born three and a half months early that I fully came to appreciate what a great treasure of friendship we had in Mitt and Ann,” Pam Finlayson, a former member of Romney’s congregation in Massachusetts, recalled in her speech.
When Thanksgiving rolled around, Kate was still struggling for life.
Brain surgery was scheduled, and the holiday was the furthest thing from our minds.
I opened my door to find Mitt and his boys, arms loaded with a Thanksgiving feast.
Of course we were overcome. When I called to thank Ann, she sweetly confessed it had been Mitt’s idea, that most of the cooking and chopping had been done by him.
Grant Bennett served as Romney’s assistant when he was the pastor of his congregation and explained the dedication Romney brought to the job. “As we began working together, Mitt asked, ‘How early can I call you in the morning?’ I said 6 a.m.,” Bennett said. “I regret my answer — for several years, Mitt became my alarm clock.”
Another group of people who testified to Romney’s character were those who worked with him when he was governor of Massachusetts.
The former Massachusetts secretary of workforce development under Romney, Jane Edmonds, recalled her first meeting with Romney: “I could tell immediately, just by our interaction, that he is the real thing — authentic. He struck me then — and now — as honest, transparent and inclusive.”
Kerry Healey, his lieutenant governor, stressed that, “first and foremost, Mitt is a good and honorable man, committed to public service and his country.”
With help from these people, the nominee himself will use his speech to introduce himself to voters. As he says in his own speech, according to prepared remarks, “you need to know more about me and about where I will lead our country.”
Just before the convention got under way Thursday night, Romney’s own running mate, Paul Ryan, came close to admitting that people still don’t have a strong sense of who Romney is.
“With due respect, he’s been running for six years, why don’t we know him?” NBC’s Brian Williams asked Ryan.
“Well, he hasn’t given this kind of a speech before,” Ryan said.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.