Front-Page NYT News: Romney's 'Aloof Manner' Hurting His Ability to Connect

It was Mitt Romney's turn in the barrel for the New York Times' recurring front-page political profile feature, "The Long Run." Walmart-hostile reporter Michael Barbaro did the honors Saturday, scouring the former Massachusetts' governor's former associates and rivals in the Boston statehouse and devoting nearly 2,000 words to the same "sometimes awkward style and aloof manner" criticism that the Times has been uncovering for the last several months: "Legislators Recall Governor Who Didn't Mingle."

Well into Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts, a state legislator named Jay Kaufman developed a nagging suspicion: the governor had no idea who he was.

A committee chairman and a veteran Democrat in the State House of Representatives, Mr. Kaufman routinely waved to Mr. Romney from his capitol office, right above the governor’s parking spot. But when he crossed Mr. Romney’s path in the building’s marble corridors one day, his fears were confirmed.

“Hello, Senator,” Mr. Romney called to Mr. Kaufman.

Sitting in his office five years later, Mr. Kaufman still seemed wounded by the slight. “No name, wrong title,” he said. “Give me a break.”

Accidental promotions and demotions like that became common during Mr. Romney’s four years in office. Despite prodding from his aides, a governor renowned for his mastery of facts and figures never memorized the names and faces of state politicians.

“It was very irritating to lawmakers,” acknowledged John O’Keefe, Mr. Romney’s former director of legislative affairs. “It was hard to explain.”

Mr. Romney’s struggle to tamp down resurgent opponents and secure the Republican presidential nomination, highlighted by his uneven performance on Super Tuesday, is bringing renewed focus to his sometimes awkward style and aloof manner, which have hampered his ability to connect with some voters. A review of his time as governor shows that those traits affected his relationship with another crucial constituency: the Massachusetts lawmakers he needed to pass legislation.