This article originally appeared in the CQ Weekly 2012 Republican Convention Guide.
Talk to Mitt Romney's closest friends and associates, those who have known him throughout his business and political career, and you will hear affection, pride and reverence typically reserved for family members and lifelong childhood chums. But voters do not feel the same way, according to public opinion polls, and if they did, it is unlikely the battle for the White House would be so close, given the economic headwinds facing President Obama's re-election bid.
As a major party presidential nominee, Romney brings an impressive résumé: A decade and a half of experience as a chief executive of a private equity firm that helped launch and reboot scores of businesses, including household names such as Staples Inc.; savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics that were in such trouble when Romney was tapped to lead the organizing committee that the Salt Lake City games were in danger of being yanked from the Utah capital; and a four-year term as Massachusetts governor.
And yet, Romney's two presidential campaigns have inspired a collective shoulder shrug from American voters. It's not that this Bay State Republican who was reared in Michigan and earned an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and two post-graduate degrees from Harvard doesn't impress voters. Polls show they agree he has the skill set to manage the national economy and create jobs - at least more so than Obama. Voters are just not sure they like him, and remain unconvinced that he cares about them and can be entrusted with their future and those of their children.
Accordingly, Romney's low personal favorable ratings are why many political analysts say Obama holds a slight lead over Romney in all but one - North Carolina - of the 11 states where the presidential race is contested and where the outcome will decide the Nov. 6 election.
The core group of friends, colleagues and supporters who surround Romney believe he is the presidential candidate most able to accomplish the ultimate turnaround project - reviving the U.S. economy. Whether the confidence of his loyalists begins to rub off on voters is likely to determine Romney's prospects this fall.
Over the past month, eight public opinion polls showed as many as 49 percent and as few as 40 percent of those surveyed ranked Romney favorably; and as many as 50 percent of those surveyed and as few as 39 percent viewed him unfavorably. That suggests he is weak in a crucial category compared with past presidential nominees.