Romney: 'Dork factor' at play?
Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney speaks at Otterbein University in April.
May 8th, 2012
02:15 PM ET

Romney: 'Dork factor' at play?

With the new backing of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney now has the support of nearly all of his former Republican opponents. But the presumptive presidential nominee still faces a disconcerting divide with voters: They just don’t find him that likable.  A new USA TODAY/Gallup poll released Monday found that just 31% of voters found him likable, compared to 58% for President Obama.

So what's the problem? Romney is smart, successful, polite and even handsome.

The answer may be hiding in plain sight. From the offhand comments muttered in homes and happy hours, to the repeat jokes on late-night comedy sketches, it seems some in America are asking if Mitt Romney is just too much of a dork.

“He was really awkward,” Otterbein University student Carissa Reed said of her experience sitting on stage with the former Massachusetts governor two weeks ago. “You could tell he was out of his element. … I was just, like, 'Should I clap?’ None of us knew what to do.”

Reed was witness to what may have been Romney’s most awkward speech of the year, with the least crowd response. During much of the 40-minute Otterbein address, students from various universities, who were on stage with the candidate, openly yawned, looked at their watches, sent texts or e-mails and in at least one case, appeared to fall asleep.

Romney, in a somewhat self-deprecating way, began the speech by pointing to problems on stage. The students were sitting behind him, facing his back. The blackboard he wanted wasn’t there. His voice trailed off as he spoke of the issues. In the body of his speech, the candidate made some significant philosophical points but drove few ideas home with impact.

He was not connecting.

The Romney campaign did not respond to CNN’s questions about the Otterbein speech and the idea that its candidate may be awkward, or dorky, in public.

“I got the impression that he’s someone smart, but who’s genuinely uncomfortable in front of a crowd,” said Otterbein political science professor Allan Cooper. “You actually see him standing up there … trying so hard to connect with these young people and failing so miserably at it.”

Cooper, who advises both the college Democrats and the college Republicans on campus, insists he is not partisan. He believes that Romney’s inability to connect is a significant issue and that it lost the support of all the swing voters in his class who saw him speak.

At the University of Virginia, political scientist Geoffrey Skelling says it is a combination of speaking style and the ability (or inability) to relate to people.

“I do think the average voter looks at Romney and sees someone who really doesn’t have much personal knowledge of the Main Street situation,” he said. “If you watch video clips of Romney at events … if he’s uncomfortable, people can tell. Versus if Obama is uncomfortable, you’d never know.”

But there is an alternate view.

“Women love a dork! Are you kidding me?” asked Romney supporter Elizabeth Blackney.

The Portsmouth, Virginia, mother knew about the Otterbein speech and saw Romney speak in her hometown over a week later.

“He definitely connected here,” she said. “It was very different.”

Her theory? That in Virginia, in front of an outdoor crowd of supporters, Romney was less hesitant about being himself - about being a bit of a dork, which Blackney says he needs to do more often.

“I think he just needs to give himself permission to be that guy, ” she told CNN Radio.

Right now, Blackney believes Romney isn’t dorky enough. He needs to be more genuinely his awkward self and worry less about trying to seem cool, she said.

“He doesn't want to come off as arrogant and I think that's what holds him back. I think he should just embrace (the idea of being a dork) because the thing most women are looking for is that healthy relationship and someone who is a healthy role model for their children. Give me a geek.“

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Filed under: Mitt Romney • Republican Party
soundoff (643 Responses)
  1. mommers

    CNN likes to spread this dork myth. Competence over Charisma! Romney/Rubio!

    May 9, 2012 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. jengeddie

    This democrat sees no need to use slurs or put downs . I will attest that Romney's problem is a lack of authenticity or genuineness . I do not believe he is passionate about anything except being a president . Obama seems believeable and dedicated to the causes of everyday people like college loans and decent affordable health care and financial reform . We know what he stands for .

    May 9, 2012 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. amos in st.pete

    Americans will never elect a president with no personality and never will,we do want a geek to represent us

    May 9, 2012 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
    • HOWARD


      May 9, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. helenecha

    Isn't Romney dorky enough? Does he need to be more genuinely his awkward self and worry less about trying to seem cool?

    May 9, 2012 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      Yes, this article is a hilarious defense for our President. "dork factor?" Really? Media is trying to make this an issue because they can't make the President seem like that cool rockstar he was 4 years ago. It's not about Romney being unlikable, it's about the President's likability rating being high but his overall favorability as winning again as dropped so they have to take the issue off of electability and turn it into a popularity contest. Sorry media you're not gonna be able to revive that 2008 Hollywood campaign.

      May 9, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. sean cruz

    As the father of four children who disappeared into Utah 16 years ago in a Mormon abduction, I'm going to have much to say about Mitt Romney throughout the campaign.

    Thanks to the Mormons who kidnapped my children and put them through a forced immersion that led to the death of my son Aaron Cruz, Oregon has become the first and only state in the nation where child abduction creates a civil cause of action.

    Senator Gordly's landmark kidnapping statute, Senate Bill 1041, immediately became known as "Aaron's Law", as it passed on a dramatic end-of-session unanimous House vote not long after his death in Payson, Utah.

    The LDS church does not recognize religious freedom. You disagree, you pay a penalty

    Should you suffer the terrible fortune of having your son or daughter marry into the Romney (or any other Mormon) family, say goodbye to any plans you ever had of attending your own child's wedding. They'll make you wait outside. The Mormons will force your child to choose the sect over your family.

    It's one thing to believe something as an aspect of religion, and in that regard we are ostensibly all free to believe practically anything, but that freedom ends where a person or a congregation acts on its beliefs, enforcing its "no contact" rules on children caught in the middle, for example. When those actions involve the severing of families and child abuse, the Mormon church must be held accountable.

    May 9, 2012 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Voted Obama now for romney

      Mormon abduction..? Wow sir you are unreasonable. Idk maybe rethink your reason. Mormons are decent people and allow people to come and go as they wish. Maybe it's you....Obama has failed ...give Romney a try

      May 9, 2012 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose late President Gordon B. Hinkley was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom; whose prompt actions at Katrina and the Tsunamis were breathtaking. The church of 15 million members world-wide did not kidnap anyone. This loony tunes may be talking about the FLDS a cult of hundreds whose leader is now in prison. Bigots and liars abound on line.

      May 9, 2012 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan Clayton

      Mormons have 13 "articles of faith" Here are number 11 and number 12, which fly in the face of Mr Cruz, if he is a real person?
      We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
      We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

      May 9, 2012 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
    • FLIndpendent

      @Voted for Obama – How has President Obama failed? What were you expecting and what do you think Romney's going to magically accomplish?

      May 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BunnyBunny

    It's not dorkness. It's cluelessness.

    May 9, 2012 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Anne

    He does remind me of Al Gore during the 2000 election. He's not quite as stiff(his personality,) as Al Gore. However, one could make a plausible comparison.

    May 9, 2012 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
  8. ourjungle

    Our Nation has already suffered through 3 1/2 years of dorker. Things should improve greatly with dork. Thank you N.C. for having the courage to getting rid of that Washington lifer,only regret is that he couldn't take McCain, and Reid with him.

    May 9, 2012 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. show me a good reason

    Romney is so boring that I was falling asleep reading this article about him being boring.. 🙂
    Obama is a charishmatic leader..

    May 9, 2012 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Isaac

      Being the leader of a nation is not about likability, it is about one' ability to get the job done. If it were the other way around why not have Bieber run for office?

      May 9, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Son of Dan

      So was Hitler....

      May 9, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • FLIndpendent

      "It's about getting the job done" – What does that even mean and what isn't getting done under President Obama? Are you all expecting 0% unemployment because I really don't see why you think the job isn't getting done.

      May 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ClaudiaL

    Dork, nope. Romney is the re-incaration of Nixon–a liar & a crook!

    May 9, 2012 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. GrumpyBob

    Dork meter is pegged. But that is Romneys best trait. Romney is a loser and a liar. Obama will remain our President. Romney is making easier for Obama everytime he opens his mouth. RichyRich cares about one thing and it not AMERICA. He want to be in a position where he can control his tax rate. We pay over 30% and work our asses off. Romney pays less than 13% and laughs at the poor and elderly. Obama Cares about you. Obama cares about me. Do you want to vote for a man (less of) to run our country that keeps his investments off shore. Romney does not invest in America.
    If he gets a hold on a US company he will close the US facility and fire its employees and send the work overseas. Romney is a COMMIE. Romney is Americas newest enemy. Romney disgusts me. He is so out of touch with the American middle-class and low income. he needs us for one thing....your vote...and then GO SCREW!

    May 9, 2012 at 5:33 am | Report abuse |
    • FLIndpendent

      I hope all you Romney supporters realize he's signed the Norquist pledge which is treasonous to say the least. Norquist said that he & the other Tea Partiers don't need a president, they just need someone that will sign off on anything they give him. Guess Romney is their chosen puppet.

      May 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. GrumpyBob

    Just In: Romney saves USA...Auto Bailout Was all his idea!
    Tiger Woods admits " Myth Romney taught me how to play".
    Member of Seal Team 6 says " Romney is a hero. He flew the chopper in told us to wait in thecompound. A couple minutes later he came down with OBL body over his shoulder". and said "come on boys..Lets go home"!
    Archeologists have determined that in fact the wheel was deigned by MYTH.
    Leonardo Di Vinci lost memoirs were recovered this it he devulges that in fact most of his ideas were stolen from Myth Romney.
    Myth is the reason the earths spins. Romney is like..... A GOD!

    May 9, 2012 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
    • BunnyBunny

      "Romney is like..... A GOD!" That's because Mormon men believe after they die, they will become a God & get their own planet.

      One thing I do not get about Romney is the lying. He lies more than any politician I have ever seen. More than any person I have ever known. Makes me wonder if he's a pathological liar. I've never seen nothing like it.

      May 9, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Isaac

      This just in...Nobama is not a two term president...he's a u-turn president

      May 9, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. jkimbo

    I hope he gets elected. Think of all those great SNL skits we would have to look forward to!

    May 9, 2012 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |

    Ron Paulbots and teabaggers will cut Mitt McCain off at his knees at the Anybody but Mitt McCain convention in Tampa.

    May 9, 2012 at 6:09 am | Report abuse |
  15. CR

    Hey I'll take dork over a charismatic back stabber anytime. Everytime I see Obama on TV I wonder who he is planning to sell us out too if he gets another term. I really don't think America can handle another term of Obama. He started with 3 trillion dollar National Debt which under him has grown to 14 trillion. How much more can we afford? He makes me wonder what else he is planning behind the American publics back i.e. with Russia? Middle East? China? Who else? "They" say unemployment has gone down, but in reality it is that more people have reached the end of their benefits and are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits, therefore, they are off unemployment lists and the numbers "seem" to go down. Not, that more people are employed but not as many are recieving benefits. Which leads to more families on welfare and food stamp programs which are paid for by the government. I believe that if Obama could he would have us all on a welfare level equal to all the third world countries and lead us to a one world government. Check it out.

    May 9, 2012 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
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