The big difference, the one that will probably decide this presidential race, is this: Barack Obama is able to convey an impression of likability to voters. Given how private he is, an enigma even to some who are close to him, it’s an incredible performance.

That likability slips through your hands at closer range. The president survived a “raised by wolves” upbringing, as Michelle has called it. He retained the monastic skills that sustained him through the solitude of his years in New York. His “winning smile,” as Jonathan Alter wrote in “The Promise,” “obscured a layer of self-protective ice.” His staffers respect him, but he doesn’t inspire the kind of adoration that the Bush presidents got. And the pillow-plumping romance with the press is over…

Romney’s all-business/all-family rigidity makes him seem inaccessible. And his tax legerdemain has made him seem shady. As Marc Wolpow, a former Romney employee at Bain Capital, said in a Boston Globe story about Mitt’s 1988 deal with Michael Milken while the junk bond king was under federal investigation: “Mitt, I think, spent his life balanced between fear and greed. He knew that he had to make a lot of money to launch his political career. It’s very hard to make a lot of money without taking some kind of reputational risk along the way.”