SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney scored a debate victory over President Obama last week and showed Americans a side not often seen by the general public — a softer, more moderate, more at ease candidate.
Credit the Romney family for the change.
"Behind the scenes, for months, his family, specifically Mrs. Romney, the oldest son Tagg have been saying the same thing," said Politico reporter Mike Allen. "They said voters are not seeing the same Mitt Romney we're seeing."
Citing campaign sources, Politico reports Romney's family stepped in to "shake things up"— a new "Let Mitt be Mitt" approach to show the nation that Romney has executive credentials but is an approachable leader.
Former Utah Gov. Olene Walker, who is starting a new political institute at Weber State University, said there's often a tension between family and campaign professionals, who push for a more negative, attacking campaign.
"Now, perhaps most candidates feel like, 'We don't like it, but we better be part of it,' she said.
Just a week ago Romney looked like he could be in deep trouble as polls showed Obama with leads in swing states. Now pollsters and pundits say it's a whole new ballgame.
"Now they feel like they're back in the game," Allen said. "The biggest thing they're excited about in polls is the fact that Republicans are more enthusiatic, which is big."
"Ultimately, the candidate has to be him or herself," said Romney supporter Kirk Jowers. "I think in the debate people saw that with Mitt, and if he keeps that up, according to the polls he should do very well."
The change in strategy comes at a critical time for both campaigns. Romney pulled ahead of Obama, 49 to 45 percent nationally, among likely voters in a Pew Research Center poll conducted after the debate.
Still, a new Gallup poll shows Obama ahead of Romney 49 to 46 percent among registered voters.
Based on the presumed outcome of the 41 non-battleground states and Washington, D.C., Obama enters the final period banking on 237 electoral votes. Romney is assured of 191.
On the road to 270, the battleground states account for the final 110 electoral votes: Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado.
Both candidates campaigned in Ohio Tuesday, the last day of voter registration ahead of Election Day.
"Find at least one person who voted for Barack Obama last time and convince them to come join our team," Romney told voters in Van Meter, Iowa, before making a similar pitch in Ohio, where he was campaigning with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Obama, in Columbus, called out, "All right, Buckeyes, we need you." His campaign had buses nearby, ready to ferry students or other supporters to registration centers.
Within the next week there will be two debates, a vice presidential debate on Thursday in Kentucky and the second presidential debate on Tuesday in New York.
Romney's five sons have been fixtures on the campaign trail. Last Friday in Wisconsin, Tagg Romney served as key surrogate for his father.
"We're going to win here," he said. "We feel very good about it. We think out message is resonating. We're not worried about the day-to-day polls. Our internal polls have us doing very good here. Republicans have done well here the last few cycles. I think we'll win here."
Contributing: Associated Press
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