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Friends say Mitt Romney not as stiff or robotic as media portrays

Published: Friday, Aug. 19 2011 12:55 p.m. MDT

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times proudly wrote this week, "I saw Mitt Romney's hair move. No really, I did ... a breeze lifted some of his salt-and-pepper mane out of its Brylcreem perfection."

Previously Dowd called Romney's wife and kids "scary-perfect" and, along with others, has generally depicted Romney as stiff and awkward. In 2008, funny man Jon Stewart joined in, saying half jokingly that most see Mitt as "a salt-and-pepper, man-shaped polymer casing for a spiritual vacuum." Stewart also asked Larry King, "Is that guy a Pixar character?" referring to Romney, "... He looks like an alien pod had created him to be a president — like some how it found a handsome guy and stuck an earwig into his ear and it like ate away his brain and they just moved it with a remote control."

Phil Barlow, a Professor of Mormon Studies who knew Mitt Romney while attending the Harvard Divinity School, takes issue with these characterizations of Romney.

"There is this notion that he's phony — some say his wife looks like a Barbie doll and he's the ken doll— so, there is a perception that he looks and acts too corporate or too polished or like he's putting up a phony persona," Barlow told the Deseret News. "That is clearly not the case, when he was in a formal setting, casual setting, or even on vacation at the Cape (Cod) in swimming trunks out in the water, there was just a natural articulate polish to his style — its not a front or formality or a public persona to seem impressive, he's just an intelligent, articulate person who is polished in his nature."

Barlow was so impressed with his interactions with Romney that he wrote home to his mother in Utah saying that as far as executive ability Romney could be president of the United States someday.

Other friends of the Romneys were equally struck by the difference between the man they knew and the one portrayed in the media.

"I've actually watched on the television from time to time when (Romney) has been on a show or a clip, and I don't think people really have seen who he really is ... on the campaign trail it's different," said Kenneth Hutchins a former Massachusetts's police chief and friend of the Romneys. "He was always very kind, warm and complimentary — there was very little that was negative. That's what made him such a great person to be around — he never held himself above others."

This sentiment was shared by Salt Lake City's former mayor Rocky Anderson in a recent interveiw with The Daily Beast.

"He had a way of making people feel like they'd been heard," said Anderson. "I've never seen Mitt Romney exude any sort of arrogance."

Anderson, a non-Mormon-Utahn known for his liberal views, first met Romney when he was hired to take over the 2002 Olympic games and, according to the piece, he initially thought Romney was going to be a "Republican stiff."

"So, I get up there and I'm greeted by this young, vivacious, friendly guy. I'm looking around to find the stodgy person I thought I would meet, but no, that was Mitt.

"Or at least was. Who knows now?"

The piece suggests that Romney's relationship with Anderson has now soured.

"He seems to be among a whole group of political prostitutes who are willing to back off of positions that matter a lot ... in order to win elections."

EMAIL: hboyd@desnews.com

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