In accepting the Republican nomination, Romney spoke emotionally about his Mormon faith and church community, about his romance with Ann and raising five boys, about his mother’s feminist streak and his father’s entrepreneurial spirit.
The evening’s program amounted to a high-definition showcase of Mitt the Man — an all-out effort to convince voters of his character, compassion and convictions.
Romney’s advisers see President Obama as beatable, but worry that their candidate’s likability deficit is his greatest liability. And so Romney arrived in Tampa with a mission: Move more toward becoming a destination candidate than a default candidate. Offer Americans the personal stories that help connect the bullet points of his résumé.
On the campaign trail, Romney is sometimes awkward and emotionally distant, a multimillionaire who processes data but struggles to show he is in touch with folks’ everyday struggles. He was not that man Thursday night.
At times he seemed to choke up, his eyes watery.
“Mom and Dad were married 64 years, and if you wondered what their secret was, you could have asked the local florist – because every day Dad gave Mom a rose, which he put on her bedside table,” Romney said. “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. My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example.”
Once Romney became a father himself, he joked, his five boys “seemed to have this need to reenact a different world war every night.” And he talked about the kinship he and Ann felt with other families in their church congregation.
“We prayed together, our kids played together and we always stood ready to help each other out in different ways,” Romney said. “And that’s how it is in America. We look to our communities, our faiths, our families for our joy, our support, in good times and bad. It is both how we live our lives and why we live our lives.”
Families that Romney aided during his years as a volunteer bishop at his Mormon church took to the stage with their own moving personal testimonials. Pam Finlayson, her voice cracking, talked about how Romney visited her sick daughter, Kate, in intensive care.
“When he looked down tenderly at my daughter, his eyes filled with tears, and he reached out gently and stroked her tiny back. He didn’t just see a tangle of plastic and tubes and wires. He saw our beautiful little girl, and he was clearly overcome with compassion for her,” Finlayson said.
Kate died last year. “When it comes to loving our neighbor, we can talk about it or we can live it,” Finlayson said. “The Romneys live it every single day.”