Romney's Secret: In Person, He Seems Presidential, not Plastic

Though he doesn't come across well on television, it's clear why voters in New Hampshire and Iowa have been impressed.

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NASHUA, N.H. -- I have never liked Mitt Romney. I thought he was creepy.

One day he is more pro-choice than Ted Kennedy. Now he is more pro-life than the Pope. He's for an individual health-care mandate in his state, now against the Obamacare it inspired. He just didn't seem credible.

I was convinced that Republicans would just never trust Romney. And on the national level, they don't. So I couldn't understand why he was on track to really kick everyone in the pants in tomorrow's primary. Until I saw him this morning in my Nashua hotel's ballroom.

He is just so much better in person than he is on television.

He is energetic, while the other candidates look exhausted. He is quick while they pause frequently. On television this quality sometimes comes off as manic and staged and over-prepared. But when you're in the room with him he just seems a little more alive than everyone else. His preparation actually seems like a compliment to the audience. He cared enough to do his best.

And he looks way more presidential than anyone of the other candidates I've seen this past weekend -- except maybe Jon Huntsman.

I've seen the majority of national politicians in person now. Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee, and Barack Obama would rank at the top for working a room. Mitt Romney isn't at that level, but this morning he was near it.

Romney was speaking to about 300 people from the Nashua Chamber of Commerce and about 200 media members. The speech was very simple and understandable to the small-business owners here in Nashua. "Wouldn't it be nice if people in Washington didn't spend more than they take in?" he said, contrasting the public sector with the private one, "Wouldn't it be nice if someone there actually looked at the data?"

Romney was just really excellent at explaining how the Obama administration can distort a free market.

He compared the way Bain Capital helped start Staples, a company that acted lean for its first years and received just $5 million of capital investment, with the way Solyndra acted after receiving $530 million from Washington, getting fancy corporate offices.

"When people saw what Staples was doing, they got into the same market too. But when other solar companies saw Solyndra get $530 million from the government, investors pulled back in that industry," he said. "So instead of encouraging solar development, the Obama administration hurt it."

It was a message that really resonated with the room, and Romney delivered it with conviction and wit. Combine that with all the press saying that he has the momentum and looks the most electable, and you get a freight train that the other conservatives in this race are not going to be able to stop tomorrow.

To be honest, my personal politics are somewhere in-between the way Jon Huntsman governed Utah and Ron Paul's Constitutionalism. Pro-life, free-market, and anti-war. I think Romney will try to manage the economy from Washington. I think his foreign policy is dangerous. So I don't want to like Romney.

But if I wasn't armed with all these reasons not to like him and I just walked into that ballroom today, I would have voted for him tomorrow. He was that impressive.

This article originally appeared at Business Insider, an Atlantic partner site.

Image: Brian Snyder / Reuters

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Michael Brendan Dougherty is politics editor at Business Insider.

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