Ted and Pat Oparowski were from a different world, far from the ritzy convention stage and the raucous crowds in front.
But they had a compelling story to sell: How Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney had helped them deal with the worst news any parent could receive: their son had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a fatal medical condition.
Romney took time off from work to be with their son, David, and, at the boy’s request, helped him write a will bequeathing his favourite things to his favourite people. The Oparowskis didn’t need to speak about it as much as Romney needed the story to be told. In the last 70 days of Romney’s most crucial race, the Oparowskis were among friends, acquaintances, fellow Mormons, ex-colleagues paraded before party faithfuls at the convention to sell the candidate.
Even his own family. Ann Romney took the stage on Tuesday in a radiant red dress to talk about love, her husband, the man who still makes her laugh after 41 years of marriage.
Bob White recalled how Romney, as boss of Bain Capital, shut down the firm’s Boston office so everyone could go to New York to join the search for a colleague’s missing daughter.Romney produced these testimonials because he needs them. He already looks presidential, with a patrician bearing and slicked back hair. But needs to look human, trustworthy, likable.
Despite a stellar reputation as a professional — acknowledged even by former president Bill Clinton, a Democrat — Romney is trailing President Barack Obama. Poll after poll show voters believe Romney is better equipped to fix the economy because of his private sector experience than Obama.
But voters don’t like Romney, they don’t trust him. So far, they are not warming up to him. This is especially true for the crucial independent voters who will eventually call the race.
Hard-core Republicans are not too sure of him either. At the convention, many spoke about their doubts.
Thomas Park came to the convention with his wife, a delegate from the southern state of Georgia. “I am not a great fan of Romney,” he said, “He is a businessman.” Park is a social conservative who doesn’t believe politics and religion should be kept apart. He is not an oddball among the Republicans which has many like Park in its ranks.
“Romney’s conservatism is suspect,” Park said, adding, “because he is a businessman, he will say anything and do anything to win over conservatives, but he doesn’t believe in it.”
The faithful at the convention looked all charged up, ready to propel a Romney juggernaut right through the next few weeks, right to the gates of the White House.
For some Republicans, such as Jerry Clark from New Mexico, Romney has become less unattractive because of his running mate Paul Ryan, royalty for fiscal and social conservatives. Clark is a Tea Party member and Ryan is the reason he is excited about the Romney-Ryan ticket.