Romney admits Democratic attacks are hurting him with voters: ‘I don’t think everybody likes me’

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

BOSTON—Mitt Romney is spending Monday morning doing speech prep at an elementary school near his vacation home in Wolfeboro, N.H., but he's already giving hints about what he will say Thursday night when he accepts the GOP nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

In an interview with USA Today's Susan Page, Romney says his wife, Ann, will offer a glimpse of his personal side to voters in her convention speech. But when he takes the stage, it will be all business.

"We won't be talking about my life," Romney tells USA Today. "We'll be talking about policy."

It's a notable choice even as Romney bluntly acknowledges in both the USA Today interview and in a separate interview with Politico that some voters just don't like him. He accuses President Barack Obama and his allies of "personal vilification and demonization"—and admits their attacks have been effective.

[Related: Ron Paul doesn't 'fully endorse' Romney]

"There are plenty of weaknesses that I have, and I acknowledge that," Romney tells USA Today. "But the attacks that have come have been so misguided, have been so far off target, have been so dishonest, that they surprised me. I thought they might go after me on things that were accurate that I've done wrong, instead of absurd things."

Among the examples Romney cites: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's claims that he hadn't paid personal taxes in a decade, which the GOP candidate described as "ridiculous."

"The attack about how Romney's responsible for this woman who died … and the vice president's comments about 'chains.' Really?" Romney told USA Today. "The White House just keeps stepping lower and lower and lower, and the people of America know this is an important election and they deserve better than they've seen."

But Romney insists he won't change his focus to appeal more to voters on an emotional basis.

"I know there are some people who do a very good job acting and pretend they're something they're not. ... You get what you see. I am who I am," Romney told Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen. "I don't think everybody likes me. I don't believe that, by any means. But I do believe that people of this country are looking for someone who can get the country growing again with more jobs and more take-home pay, and I think they realize this president had four years to do that. … He got every piece of legislation he wanted passed, and it didn't work. I think they want someone who has a different record, and I do."

But while Romney assailed the Obama campaign for its attacks, the presumptive Republican nominee has grown more aggressive on the trail in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, he slammed Obama for running a campaign based on "division and anger and hate." He's accused Obama of trying to undo historic welfare reforms requiring recipients to work and of using Medicare funds to pay for so-called "Obamacare"—two lines of attack that have been disputed by independent fact-checkers.

On Friday, Romney made a birth certificate joke during a rally in Michigan that was widely interpreted as a dig at conspiracy theories that Obama wasn't born in the United States—though Romney later insisted it wasn't a joke about Obama.

Asked about the joke, Romney told both USA Today and Politico he was simply being "human" and "spontaneous" and injecting a little humor into the campaign. And he argued that Obama's attacks have been personal, while his attacks on Obama have been based on policy.

He tells USA Today that Obama and his allies have tried "to minimize me as an individual, to make me a bad person, an unacceptable person."

"I think in the final analysis, people will recognize those attacks for what they are, and they'll make a decision based on who can do a better job creating jobs and providing more take-home pay for the middle class of America," Romney told USA Today. "I believe I am that person."