Of course, the post hoc love fest raises the question of how much of this good will was there for the taking ante hoc. That is, could the Romney campaign have done more to make their guy likable when it counted?
I’ve heard a few theories on this from people who either covered the campaign from the outside or were close with those who ran it from the inside. The most widespread explanation is that the campaign made a deliberate decision to limit the resources spent selling Romney-the-man. The thinking was that they couldn’t beat the president on likability in any event, and were better suited by selling Romney, to paraphrase Ramesh Ponnuru, as a robot programmed to create jobs. A second, less obvious but perhaps more intriguing, theory is that leading with an account of Romney’s good deeds would have entailed delving deeply into the weeds of Mormonism (because, for example, much of Romney’s personal kindnesses came in his capacity as a church leader, and much of his charitable donations came in the form of tithing) and that this would have opened a whole new can of invertebrates that the campaign wasn’t eager to deal with.
One or both may well be true, and, combined with Romney’s apparent constitutional incapability to pat himself on the back for being a decent human being, they may have made the cuddlization of Romney a dubious strategy. But it isn’t as if the campaign worked to keep the stories secret. They did what they could, in convention testimonials, in YouTube ads, and in the mouths of surrogates (not least Paul Ryan in the nationally televised VP debate, though his boosterism was lost in the vice president’s Nicholsonesque cackling), to spread the word. But it was not preponderating. Why wasn’t it preponderating?