Indeed, when a woman he bumps into while walking precincts here happens to mention he was once half an hour late to a house party, Romney stops dead in the middle of the street and turns disbelievingly to an aide: "I was late? I'm never late. . . . When was I a half-hour late?" It is finally determined that he was not late, the world makes sense again, and he trots happily down the block, where a "Mitt Romney for President" yard sign the size of a billboard greets him.
"Oh my gosh!" he beams, breathless. His speech is peppered with goshes and holy molys, the all-American boy at 60, sideburns graying, 11 grandchildren, but still as gorgeous as he was in 2002 when People magazine named him one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world.
On this autumn day in New Hampshire, where the falling leaves are as big as dinner plates and pumpkins adorn the stoops, Romney's wholesome image seems a welcome change for voters he meets, every one of them disappointed by Washington's conduct.
"If you can't run a family, how can you run a country?" one man says after hearing a Romney stump speech, with its characteristic call for building stronger families by teaching teenagers they should marry before having babies.
When Kirsten Doogue, 32 and a registered independent, is asked if the candidate who had just knocked on her door was "too perfect," she scoffs: "That's just a ridiculous complaint." She and her husband are on their front porch in stocking feet, their 1-year-old baby asleep inside. "Maybe I'm still young and hopeful to have a perfect life myself."
Romney is not without political weak spots. Among them are his shifts on such divisive issues as abortion and gay rights, which he favored more liberally as governor of a blue state than he does now as he courts the conservative Republican vote. "The older I get, the smarter Ronald Reagan gets" is the way he explains it, crediting philosophical evolution rather than political pandering.
And Romney found himself on the defensive in recent months over his sons' failure to join the military despite his own strong endorsement of the Iraq war. Critics found the lack of service hypocritical and Romney's explanation glib: "And one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected, because they think I'd be a great president." (Romney, who supported the Vietnam War, never enlisted either.)
But on the campaign trail, those vulnerabilities are mostly overshadowed by a personal life that is displayed as prominently as his leadership experience or his stands against illegal immigration, global jihad and higher taxes.
The Mitt Mobile trundles the entire Romney clan across parts of America; the website offers a chance to swap recipes with Ann or interact with the five grown Romney sons, all married and admiring of their father -- the youngest, Craig, so much so that on Halloween he sprayed his sideburns gray, put on a blue suit and went as his dad. (His wife spurned his suggestion to dress as her mother-in-law, opting for Pocahontas instead.)
At his trademark "Ask Mitt Anything" sessions -- Romney has held hundreds of them since announcing his candidacy in January -- he invites voters to fire away with even "the most embarrassing and awkward questions." Translation: No skeletons in the Romney closet.
At this one in picturesque Hopkinton, the first question is from a little girl who wants to know about his Thanksgiving traditions. He obliges with a narrative of the happy day, from touch football to the Detroit Lions game to Ann's "perfectly smooth" sweet potatoes, which she prepares with lots of butter and a little cooking sherry. (With this detail, an aide rushes to the press corps to explain that the alcohol burns off in the cooking and is therefore not a violation of Mormon law.) Then they all retire to the couches for a post-feast nap.