“Well, the damn ball didn’t float,” Graham said. “And my dog Samurai, he dove into that ocean for hours, and he’d come out of the ocean just whimpering.”
Romney, too, looked as though he might cry.
“I never saw Mitt feel so bad,” Graham said.
Sometimes Mitt Romney overdoes it.
In politics, his well-noted desire to please has led to “Saturday Night Live” skits and a whiplash-inducing record of political positions. On the campaign trail, Romney has uttered memorably pained locutions — such as telling people in Mississippi that he’d eaten “cheesy grits” — and once sang “America the Beautiful” at a rally in Florida. His efforts to relate to voters who have little in common with his wealth and religious background have left him at times looking forced and stiff.
The people who know Romney well, and who alternately describe him as a barrel of laughs and a master persuader, can’t figure it out.
“I worry about him,” said Clayton Christensen, a fellow Mormon, an influential business theorist and a friend of Romney’s.
In his office at Harvard Business School, surrounded by certificates and the books he has written — including “The Innovator’s Solution,”
“The Innovator’s Prescription” and “The Innovator’s Dilemma” — Christensen argued that Romney should open up more. He said the candidate should talk about the way he navigated acrimonious negotiations between the selling partners and the junior partners at Bain and Co. during a near-mutiny that nearly sank the firm.
“Oh my gosh, if you could tell that story in the context of a bifurcated Congress that can’t agree on anything,” Christensen said, adding that there were “hundreds and hundreds of people whose livelihoods depended on this. Why can’t he tell us this story? Nobody knows.”
Christensen said he has appealed to Romney to reveal more about his life, especially “in the context of the church,” but he hasn’t gotten anywhere. “Mitt doesn’t have an instinct to be open in his personal life,” Christensen concluded.
The Romney campaign has tried to loosen him up. His advisers have leaned on his likable wife, Ann, to supply humanizing details (she told Parade magazine that “he’s a big cereal hound”) and his personal assistant to bring him down to Earth (“He always goes, ‘What’s up, boss?’ or ‘What’s up, doc?,’ ” the aide told the New York Times).
They have put the candidate in more relaxed settings to bring out his affable side. In December, he appeared on David Letterman’s show to read a Top Ten list of “Things Mitt Romney Would Like to Say to the American People.” (No. 9: “What’s up, gangstas? It’s the M-I-Double-Tizzle.”) Asked by Jay Leno in March to associate words with political personalities, he acquitted himself well, saying “huge” for Donald Trump and “press secretary” for Rick Santorum.