There’s no mystery as to why. For months, the presidential race has been fought at 30,000 feet, with the candidates spouting off on esoteric ideas about the role of government and who has better ideas about health care and the economy. Voters have had little opportunity to connect with those ideas — or the men espousing them — on a personal level.
That changed last week when Republicans gathered in Tampa to formally choose Mitt Romney as their nominee and to introduce him to a voting public that has been slow to warm to him personally. The trend continued this week, as Democrats assembled in Charlotte try to solidify their advantage with female voters and cast as positively as possible President Obama’s signature health-care law.
“It humanizes and personalizes the politics, that it’s not just about policy it’s also about people,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican media consultant. “Whenever policy is put in people terms, that’s when it succeeds.”
During the final day of the Republican National Convention, the speaker list consisted of a series of friends and supporters who had been touched by Romney’s work as a lay leader in his church — work that often included offering comfort to the sick and dying.
Former Boston resident Pam Finlayson told how Romney came to her bedside when her daughter, Kate, was born more than three months early. “Her lungs not yet ready to breathe, her heart unstable, and after suffering a severe brain hemorrhage at three days old, she was teetering on the very edge of life,” she said. Romney grew misty-eyed as he stroked the baby’s back, Finlayson recalled.
Ted and Pat Oparowski of Vermont told a similar story about their son, David, who died of cancer at age 14. For seven months, Romney visited the boy, befriending him and eventually helping him draft a will.
“You cannot measure a man’s character based on the words he utters before adoring crowds during times that are happy,” Ted Oparowski told the crowd. “The quiet hospital room of a dying boy, with no cameras and no reporters — this is the time to make that assessment.”
The stories were aimed at humanizing Romney, who has struggled to personally connect with voters.
But the testimonials had a different purpose this week in Charlotte, where Democrats assembled to formally re-nominate Obama, and to take advantage of an engaged prime-time audience to push their talking points about women and the health-care law.
Among those who took the podium was Phoenix resident Stacey Lihn, who credited the health law with saving the life of her daughter, who she said was born with a congenital heart defect and would have maxed out her health-care benefits if not for the provision that lifts lifetime caps on benefits.