Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and U.S. President Barack Obama are in a dead heat heading into the GOP convention, according to several polls (Jewel Samad/Getty Images)
First aired on The Sunday Edition (26/08/12)
As Republican delegates gather in Tampa, Florida, this week to rally behind presidential candidate Mitt Romney, American voters are still learning about the former governor of Massachusetts. After all, the highly successful businessman and 2008 presidential candidate has often been described as being something of an enigma.
Politically, he's changed his tune on policies in the past, which GOP opponents brought up frequently during the Republican Party presidential primaries earlier this year. Is he for universal healthcare coverage or not? Does he support a woman's right to choose abortion, as he said during a debate in 2002, or is he pro-life, as he proclaimed during his last presidential bid? He's also made contradictory statements about the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, gun control and taxation.
Of course, every politician flip-flops from time to time. But adding to the Mitt mystique is the Mormon religious faith he talks little about and his time working in private equity in which he amassed his enormous fortune, says journalist Scott Helman, co-author of The Real Romney.
"If you look back over his life, he is a part of some pretty opaque institutions," Helman said on The Sunday Edition recently. He cited "the Mormon church, which has not always opened itself up to the outside world," and is widely perceived as "very insular." Helman added: "He has been in some of these private bubbles and he hasn't been that willing to talk about them or open up so I think it's natural that a lot of people wonder who is he, and do I really know him and what makes him tick?"
Some people might question why someone's religious affiliation or personal life should matter so much, but when one is running for the American presidency, one has to open up that side of their life for the public to see.
"The fact is that the American people want to know who their president is, who their candidates are, and they want to feel like they can identify with them," Helman said. "And so the more that Mitt Romney has kept Mormonism kind of behind the curtain, I think that only adds to these questions or the sense from people that they don't really understand him."
Helman believes that Romney will use the convention this week to try to shed the characterization that he's aloof and stiff, and give the American public more insight into what he stands for as a person.
"I think he will try to show a warmer side, somebody who is not only presidential but caring and compassionate and somebody who has had the life experiences of somebody you want in the Oval Office.
But Romney will also have an eye on the party faithful. "At the same time I think he will also be speaking to the Republican base," Helman said. "He needs the right wing of the party to come out and support him on election day. He cannot afford for them to stay home. So it's a difficult calculus. On the one hand he has to appeal to the American centre that maybe hasn't been paying terribly close attention, but he also has to signal to conservatives that he's OK and he's worth coming out to vote for, even if it's rainy or icy in November."