The mainstream media is increasingly tagging Mitt Romney with a reputation for acting both awkwardly and endearingly in personal interactions out on the campaign trail.

Thursday in Florida, Romney sat in a coffee shop listening to eight unemployed people discuss the perils of joblessness. When they finished, Romney spoke up.

"I should tell my story — I'm also unemployed," Romney said according to the New York Times.

Within hours after the Times story posted, The Atlantic senior editor Joshua Green put Romney's Tampa exchange into a broader context.

"Having a guy worth between $190 million and $250 million (according to campaign disclosures) joke about his unemployment status with people who lack not only jobs but also Romney's means, seems rather cruel. But I'm certain Romney meant nothing by it, and I doubt he even realized what he'd done. To spend time with Romney on the campaign trail (which I did earlier this week) is to be struck by the growing disparity between the formal candidate — the guy who debates and gives speeches, and who has noticeably improved in this regard since the last time he ran for president — and the informal one, whose awkwardness is a thing to behold."

Green's remarks mirror an article Dana Milbank penned Tuesday for the Washington Post after shadowing Romney as he campaigned in a New Hampshire town.

"In formal settings — news conferences, or Monday night's debate — Romney is confident and competent," Milbank writes. "But in casual moments, such as Tuesday morning's retail politics in New Hampshire, his weirdness comes through — equal parts 'Leave It to Beaver' corniness and social awkwardness. He greets a man perusing shelves of a hardware store: 'Shopping here today?'"

45 comments on this story

Writing for Slate Magazine, David Weigel recounts verbatim several conversations Romney initiated Tuesday morning with diners at Blake's Restaurant in Derry, N.H.

"Romney's insistence in guessing the age of everyone he meets is, up close, totally charming," Weigel reflects. "All of the voters who meet him report that they liked him. … There's really nothing you can do when faced with this much corniness. When he meets a diner who used to live in Michigan, Romney briefly bonds with her over how depressing it is to see what the state, and Detroit, have become."

Email: Twitter: askargo