But there he was, cooperating with the newspaper for a colorful story that couldn’t have been done without the campaign’s help. The portrait of a young business consultant included passages reporting, for example, that Romney “still recalls the sense of envy he felt watching Mr. Netanyahu effortlessly hold court during the firm’s Monday morning meetings, when consultants presented their work and fielded questions from their colleagues.” And that won’t hurt with Jewish voters.

The effort goes well beyond candidate accessibility. A couple of days earlier, the Times carried a textured piece on Romney’s “body man,” Garrett Jackson, that mainly served as a window on the former governor’s personal preferences. We learned that Mitt likes peanut butter and honey sandwiches, McDonald’s pancakes (usually eaten in the car), Cherry Coke Zero, chocolate milk, and peanut M&Ms. He hates being late. “He’s just a normal guy,” says Jackson, who offers to do the gov’s laundry but finds that Romney would rather wash his own shirts in the sink. And iron them too…

While a soft-focus rollout is par for the political course, it’s hard to think of a modern presidential contender who needs it more than Romney. His reserved, sometimes awkward manner (he once feared getting pink slips, likes firing people, and so on) has left many people wondering just who this guy is. He is clearly not comfortable talking about himself—or his faith—and that can be a major drawback in the Dr. Phil age. So the campaign booked him on Leno a couple of weeks back and armed him with some scripted jokes (he’d do Jay a favor by picking David Letterman as his running mate, ha ha).