TAMPA, Fla. — The conventional wisdom is that this week’s Republican National Convention needs to make Mitt Romney more “likable” — to replace his image as a frosty billionaire with the warmer (and, friends say, more accurate) picture of a family man, devout Mormon and private do-gooder.
And yes, the convention began on Tuesday with biographical tributes, testimonials to Mitt the mensch and an appealing speech from the candidate’s appealing wife, Ann Romney, who said: “You can trust Mitt. ... He will take us to a better place.”
But likability isn’t Romney’s real problem. If likability were a necessary part of electability, Richard M. Nixon wouldn’t have won two presidential elections.
Instead, what Romney needs to do at this convention is convince struggling middle-class voters that he will address their needs more effectively than President Obama has.
Romney’s advisors here were heartened this week by polls showing their candidate running even with Obama, even before the three-day infomercial of the convention. The same polls show him winning on the key question of which candidate voters trust more to fix the economy.
But there’s also a poll number that’s a headache for Romney: the one showing that most voters think that his policies as president would favor the wealthy. For Obama, the numbers are reversed: Most voters said his policies favor the middle class.
Since almost 90 percent of Americans consider themselves members of the middle class, that’s a problem for Romney, one far more serious than the silly issue of likability.
So the real goal of Team Romney in Tampa this week is this: To show voters a new side of their candidate — not warm-and-fuzzy Mitt, but Middle-Class Mitt.
Romney won’t claim to be a son of the middle class (that would strain credulity, even among the faithful), but he will try to show that middle-income families, not just the wealthy, would benefit from the changes he seeks.