x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Now the work begins for Romney

But now the real work begins for the Republican Party as it tries to persuade the American public that Mr Romney should be the country's next commander-in-chief.

WASHINGTON // After an arduous six-year journey, Willard Mitt Romney has officially secured his party's nomination as its candidate for the US presidency.

But now the real work begins for the Republican Party as it tries to persuade the American public that Mr Romney should be the country's next commander-in-chief.

The challenge: to present the Harvard graduate, multimillionaire son of a former governor of Michigan - also a one-time presidential hopeful - as "a regular guy" and counteract a White House narrative that Mr Romney is too rich to care about ordinary people.

On Tuesday, the first full day of a Hurricane Isaac delayed convention, Reince Preibus, the Republican National Committee chairman described Mr Romney as a man of "tremendous achievement". He cited his record as governor of Massachusetts, in business sector and in organising the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.

But he was also quick to reference a man who "never asks for accolades", a man of "humble focus", and a "family man".

John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, pitched the idea that a president is also chosen for his appeal as a person others want to have a drink with. Invoking a bar, Mr Boehner said Mr Romney was "from a family of builders".

The chief responsibility, however, for presenting a warmer image for Mr Romney fell to Ann Romney, his wife of more than 40 years.

Mrs Romney came, she said, to speak of "love". And she recounted her husband's steadfastness in caring for a family while pursuing his own "successful" career. She slammed those who hold his success against him. She said that while her marriage had been described as "story book", she had her struggles with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer and in raising five boys.

"What Mitt Romney and I have," she said, "is a real marriage."

Despite her best effort, Mrs Romney's was not an easy task. Opinion polls consistently find that Americans like Barack Obama, the US president, more than Mr Romney, even if they admire other qualities in the challenger.

A Gallup poll last week, for instance, found that 52 per cent thought Mr Romney would be better suited to handle the US economy, a key issue in November's election, with only 43 per cent favouring Mr Obama on the subject.

But the same poll also found that Mr Obama led Mr Romney in every other category and by more than 20 per cent in terms of likeability: 54 per cent of Americans found Mr Obama more likeable than Mr Romney, with only 31 per cent thinking the opposite.

A presidential election is not strictly a popularity contest and many factors play a role. But presidential hopefuls are also judged on their popularity and the numbers cannot be ignored. That George W Bush was seen as personable and plain-spoken when compared to the slightly aloof Al Gore in 2000 arguably proved signifanct in that, the tightest of elections.

On the current likablity ranking, Mr Romney performs worse than Walter Mondale in 1984, Michael Dukakis in 1988, George HW Bush in 1992, and Bob Dole in 1996, presidential hopefuls from both parties who were eventually beaten comfortably.

"I am who I am," Mr Romney repeated three times in a recent interview with Politico, a newspaper focused on politics.

His own party doesn't seem sure that this is enough.

okarmi@thenational.ae