Romney went on to talk at length about his work as a volunteer Mormon lay pastor for his church in Boston. He spoke about how it had helped him to connect with people who hadn’t come from the same kind of fortunate background he had.
“That gave me the occasion to work with people on a very personal basis that were dealing with unemployment, with marital difficulties, with health difficulties of their own and with their kids,” the candidate explained. “Most Americans, by the way, are carrying a burden of some kind. We don’t see it. We see someone on the street, they smile and say hello, but behind them they are carrying kind of a bag of rocks. It may be their own health difficulties. It may be concern about a job. It may be inability to pay for the home or the college they were hoping to pay for for a child.”
“When you get a chance to know people on a very personal basis, whether you’re serving as a pastor or as a counselor or in other kinds of roles, you understand that every kind of person you see is facing some challenges,” Romney continued. “And one of the reasons I’m running for president of the United States is I want to help people, I want to lighten those burdens.”
Romney’s response was the kind of answer his campaign staff has been encouraging him to undertake on the trail for months — a reply that not only acknowledged a voter’s question but also pivoted to reveal something personal about his own life. The former Massachusetts governor has long been dogged on the trail by criticism that he’s too stiff and formal to connect with voters, and aides have worried that Romney’s awkwardness won’t just hurt him in the Republican primary but also as a general election candidate against President Obama.
But as he has traveled throughout Wisconsin seeking votes ahead of Tuesday’s primary, Romney has tinkered with his usual banter with voters, dropping anecdotes about his wife, Ann, or their five sons into random questions that aren’t always family centered in hopes of humanizing his candidacy.