Starting with his perfectly coiffed hair, Romney looks like a president. But he can be plastic and forced on the stump. “I like cars,” he blurts out sometimes, leaving audience members scratching their heads. “The trees are the right height,” he said in Michigan, trying to show his love for his native state.
Some friends, who feel his pain, say he can appear awkward because he’s trying too hard, and he’s not comfortable speaking about two things that are central in his life: his wealth and his faith.
Whatever the reason, his less-than-charismatic delivery is a problem. And at this point, he has made enough wealth-related gaffes to fill a catalogue. Some of them aren’t fair – like the time he said he “likes to fire people.” What he really said was that he “likes to fire people,” like a health-care provider, when he’s unhappy with their service, not that he likes to fire employees.
But he’s made so many unfortunate comments – like mentioning that his wife, Ann, has two Cadillacs – that he enters the general election contest with a firm reputation as an out-of-touch rich guy.
Surveys show Romney faces a gaping deficit against Obama on likability and relatability. Only 29 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Romney, versus 42 percent who see Obama favorably, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll issued April 18. On the question, “Do you think the candidate is someone you can relate to?” Romney scored 34 percent and Obama scored 47 percent.
In the end, the election will hinge more on the economy than on likeability, and so Romney still has even shot at being elected. But if he could improve his image, his chances would be greater.