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Romney's awkward coronation as White House contender

Ann Romney presented the couple as normal, but they are millionaires. Photo: Reuters

What a peculiar Convention we are attending in Tampa. In part that is because Republicans are celebrating and partying while a hurricane slams into Louisiana and Mississippi a few hundred miles down the Gulf coast.

But the opening speeches last night were also puzzling. Everyone likes and respects Ann Romney, the wife of Mitt. But I think we all gasped in disbelief when Mrs Romney spoke of how she understands the hardship of women who struggle to pay their grocery and petrol bills.

The Romneys are worth a quarter of a billion dollars and own numerous luxury homes. How can they feel the economic pain of ordinary people?

Changing the perception that Mitt is out of touch is crucial. It's the main priority of the Convention.

But he didn't do himself any favours last night. He looked wooden and robotic in the audience. No wonder that a recent poll showed that only 41% of Americans believe Romney understands their needs and problems.

So he needs to make a powerful speech on Thursday night, one that resonates across America. He needs to give his activists - some of whom already have a sense of buyers' remorse - a jolt of electricity. And he must reach out to undecided voters.

Ann Romney presented her husband as a normal, loving husband and father.

I don't think he can do it. You can't fake charisma. Romney can't shake off his background as a man born into privilege or his image as a calculating and ruthless venture capitalist. His campaign speeches have been uniformly poor and repetitive so it's difficult to imagine how he can - as they say here - hit the ball out of the park tomorrow night.

To succeed, he must re-invent himself. But delegates don't want re-invention; they want authenticity. They want a new Ronald Reagan or a Republican answer to Barack Obama. Romney is not that man and his coronation is already feeling awkward.

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