"Meet Mitt Romney, human," says Reid J. Epstein in Politico. With the GOP nomination seemingly fading from sight, Team Romney has been working overtime to soften the so-called "Rombot" candidate who's been on display all year. The push to "humanize" Romney — a strategy his campaign team disavows — has its skeptics. But it's pretty clear, says Ashley Parker in The New York Times, that the often "inscrutable, overly polished, and occasionally robotic" candidate "is striving mightily to humanize himself just three weeks before the first round of voting begins." How? Here are six ways:
1. Deputizing his family
The humanizing effort began last week with a spate of TV ads emphasizing Mitt the Family Man. And to "show his softer side," says Philip Rucker in The Washington Post, Romney "has been campaigning more frequently with his wife, Ann, and their family." He's had various of his five sons introduce him at events, and is telling more personal anecdotes about his family life. The subtext may be a swipe at thrice-married GOP frontrunner Newt Gingrich, but it's also tactically "good to remind Iowans of how strong he is from a family standpoint," says unaligned Iowa GOP congressman Steve King.
2. Sending his wife to talk about his unseen side
Beyond featuring wife Ann in ads, Romney is sending her out to smaller private fundraisers to talk about "the side of Mitt people don't see or don't hear about." In other words, says Jessica Grose in Slate, "she's trying to make Mitt seem less stiff, and more fun." It might work, but if she wants to improve on "her first attempt at Mitt humanization circa 2007," Ann Romney is going to have to be a little more "specific, intimate, and revealing." It's nice that Mitt stood by her through breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, but Ann will have to "up the personal disclosures if she wants to crack that lacquered image that most people have of her husband."
3. Talking about his Mormonism
The Dec. 10 debate marked the first time in four years that Romney brought up being a Mormon, and he's only upped the religion talk since, discussing his stints as a missionary in France and as a stateside counselor to struggling Mormons. In "racing to humanize a distant and sometimes awkward politician...," say Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman in Politico, Team Romney just "smashed personal red lines the candidate spent decades erecting." He's even joking about his religion, claiming that he "encouraged the guys" who created the lewd, satirical Broadway hit The Book of Mormon, "because I thought that'd be really helpful."
4. Talking (maybe too much) about his hardships
Mitt's Mormon remembrances included new details about his two-year missionary stint that weren't even in his autobiography. Insisting he wasn't "living high on the hog" in France, Romney told a crowd on Sunday that he'd subsisted on $110 a month, in bare-bones apartments often without refrigerators, showers, or even toilets. Instead of toilets, he had "little pads on the ground, OK?" he elaborated. "You know how that works, all right. There was a chain behind you with a bucket — it was a bucket affair." I get that he's trying to "shed his robotic image," says Zeke Miller in Business Insider. But that's "a definitional case of the phrase 'Too Much Information'."
5. Meeting the press more
After facing criticism for avoiding the press, and then blowing an on-air chat with Fox News' Bret Baier, Romney has dramatically boosted his access to reporters. More is needed, American University political scientist Leonard Steinhorn tells the Boston Herald. "If he wants to humanize himself, he better work as quickly as possible and work as many media outlets as possible," especially Jon Stewart's Daily Show. Romney himself seems cool to the idea, telling the Herald he'd "much rather have a setting that's fun, and give-and-take."
6. Talking about how equally un-human his rivals are
Romney's estimated $200 million in wealth may make him seem removed from everyday Americans, but he "doesn't want to be cast as the only rich person in the race for the Republican presidential nomination," says Brian Montopoli in CBS News. On Wednesday Romney pointed out that Gingrich is also "a wealthy man, a very wealthy man," adding that "if you have a half a million dollar purchase from Tiffany's, you're not a middle class American." Zing! Gingrich is worth at least $6.7 million.