Romney friends to testify on his behalf
By: Lois Romano
August 30, 2012 04:42 AM EDT
TAMPA, Fla. — Jane Edmonds is a self-described liberal Democrat, an African-American civil rights activist from Massachusetts who is very likely far from Mitt Romney on most social issues.
But that’s not what she’s here to talk about.
Edmonds was a Cabinet secretary under Romney when he was governor, and Thursday night she will speak on his behalf at the convention.
(Also on POLITICO: For Romney, tonight's the night)
“I didn’t come here to talk about our differences — I’m not going down that path,” Edmonds said in an interview. “I’m here to talk about my experiences working for him. My friends have asked me why. I adore the guy. I have seen him behind closed doors in Cabinet meetings. I have seen his compassion. I’m at a point in my life that the character of the human being we entrust to be president is important to me. He would make an excellent president.”
Edmonds is a part of an eclectic lineup of speakers for Thursday night, snapshots from Romney’s life, which will try to fill out the picture of his elusive personality.
Ann Romney started the process Tuesday by talking about her husband’s private generosity and commitment to family. On Thursday, the convention will hear from their sons, members of their church — such as friend and church leader Grant Bennett — Olympic athletes from the games Mitt Romney headed and a few surprises, like Edmonds.
“We’re his character witnesses,” says oldest son Tagg Romney.
The Romney campaign appears to be traveling down two parallel roads this week as it tries to define the Republican nominee for the millions of voters it hopes are following the convention.
(Also on POLITICO: All the GOP convention speeches)
Allies and advisers — as well as Romney himself — have downplayed the view that he needs to be more likable or engaging to be elected president. Instead, they have tried to focus on his leadership and success and pushed back on calls for Romney — in the words of a Massachusetts state legislator — “to show more leg.”
At the same time, they obviously see the polls showing that voters haven’t embraced Romney personally, and don’t see him as connected to their middle-class lives. To that end, the convention is also weaving a narrative of a compassionate, good and generous family man, whose many acts of kindness are never spoken about because he doesn’t believe in boasting.
“One of the tenets of our faith … is that one who does good works, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” Tagg Romney told POLITICO Tuesday. “He thinks it’s disingenuous to talk about his good deeds.”
A few months back, convention impresario Russ Schriefer asked Tagg to compile a cross section of people from business, church and government who have intersected with his father over the years. From that list, Schriefer selected a handful to speak Thursday night before Romney’s speech. The candidate doesn’t know who they are.
“The caricature is different from the person I know,” says Tagg.
Top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom says the overarching goal is to cover the three main areas of Romney’s life: to show how family is his “touchstone,” to address his business career and successes and his defense of free enterprise and to show commitment to public service, which includes his four years as governor and as head of the 2002 Olympics.
“He has overperformed every expectation of him,” says media adviser Stuart Stevens. “That will come through.”
Deputy campaign manager Katie Packer Gage says America “will meet the Mitt Romney that his family and friends know so well.
“It’s the Mitt who is incredibly supportive and loyal and hardworking.”
That is the Mitt Romney Jane Edmonds said she worked with 15 years ago as his secretary of Department of Workforce Development. She remembers him asking Cabinet members to divvy up the 40 campaign promises he made, saying: “We have to deliver.” She remembers him quietly reaching out to a co-worker who had learned she had a brain tumor and offering support. She recalls him genuinely wanting to hear different points of view. “That’s what leadership is about,” she says.
Edmonds says her support of Romney has nothing to do with her feelings about Barack Obama. She thinks the president is doing a fine job. She just knows Romney. She says she wrote her speech herself and the campaign suggested no changes. “I will talk about my personal experiences with him — that’s all I can do,” she says. “I like the guy.”