WASHINGTON -- Back in March, before the Illinois primary, a phone interview I was supposed to have with Mitt Romney had been rescheduled -- I thought. I was in my kitchen when the phone rang and it was Romney. My laptop, notes and tape recorder were upstairs.
Romney, the GOP presidential contender, could not have been more gracious when I asked him if he could hold on until I got myself together. He gave me the amount of time I was supposed to have -- no deduction for the fumbled start. That he dodged a few questions in the course of the interview isn't my point here.
He was very nice.
Which brings me to the likeability, favorability and relatability gap in the contest between GOP contender Romney and President Barack Obama. Several surveys have been giving Obama a big edge over Romney when it comes to those key intangibles -- and it might make a difference if the election is close, as predicted.
Romney's unfavorable rating has been slipping since June, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released on Thursday.
More voters -- 52 percent -- said they had an unfavorable view of Romney compared to 37 percent who were favorable. This was -- according to Pew -- the "sixth consecutive survey over the past nine months in which (Romney's) image has been in negative territory."
When it comes to Obama, some 50 percent were favorable to 45 percent unfavorable.
There seems bad news for both rivals. According to Pew, "Obama's personal ratings are lower than most presidential candidates in recent elections."
As for Romney, Pew found that since 1988, all candidates had higher personal ratings in the final days of the contest than Romney has now.
This tracked a July Wall Street Journal/NBC poll where 47 percent said they like Romney on a personal basis. But on that same test, Obama is liked by 67 percent on a personal basis.
An offshoot of likeability is whether voters relate to a candidate. The poll found only 42 percent said Romney had a "background" and "values" they relate to -- compared to 50 percent for Obama.
A Gallup/USA Today poll in May also found a big likability gap: Obama 60 percent to Romney's 31 percent.
The survey found, Obama "holds a significant lead on caring about the needs of people and being a strong and decisive leader." Romney, in that same survey did best on the question of who would be better managing government -- 46 percent to 43 percent for Obama.
Concluded Gallup, "Romney's large deficit in likability is a potential concern, given that voters usually elect the candidate they like more. In each of the last five presidential elections, the candidate whose basic favorable rating was higher won the election each time."
The Obama team has been portraying Romney as a man who has trouble relating to everyday people. Romney has been pounded by Democrats over his tenure running Bain -- that he made money for himself and investors at the expense of everyday working people.
The GOP convention at the end of the month in Tampa gives Romney a chance to re-introduce himself. His wife, Ann, and five sons are being seen more; the job of family surrogates is almost always to humanize a candidate.
Rommey's personal story is obviously not as unique as Obama's -- he's not as culturally hip -- and he's not as good at self-deprecating humor as the president. It's a puzzle for the campaign to figure out.
Romney, Obama in Chicago
Romney hits Elk Grove Village on Tuesday for a campaign event at Acme Industries, 1325 Pratt Blvd., and headlines two fund-raisers in downtown Chicago in an Illinois campaign swing.
The fund-raisers are aimed at donors from the hospitality and manufacturing industries. Romney plans to host a "manufacturers round-table" at that industry event. President Barack Obama returns to Chicago Aug. 12 for a series of fund-raisers. On Aug. 15, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Beth Myers, who is leading Romney's vice president search, hit Chicago for a fund-raiser at the Chicago Hilton and Towers.