Mitt Romney is human, after all.
Employing what must be the most potent "humanization" tactic available, the Romney campaign released a bundle of medical records last week, confirming the candidate's status as not only a man, but a "vigorous" one with a resting heart rate (40 beats per minute) many of his fellow humans would envy.
Making the public certain of Romney's carbon-based existence had been of particular concern to partisans ahead of the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., last month. It wasn't enough, they said, for the candidate to bank on a popular rejection of the Obama economic record; he needed to make a psychic connection with other American humans.
But first impressions – many of them authored by the Obama campaign's relentless criticism of Romney's Bain Capital days and a trying GOP primary race – can be hard to shake. Republicans left Tampa talking as much about Clint Eastwood's interrogation of an invisible man as Romney's appearance as an empathetic one. Poll numbers released the following week only underlined their anxiety.
So the campaign responded, eventually, with the promise of another "reset," this time pledging to deliver more detailed policy proposals and "More Mitt."
"We need to lay out the vision and lay out the specifics as we are doing, but more clearly and more consistently on a daily basis," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
Ed Gillespie, a former RNC leader, made a similar point six days earlier, telling reporters on a conference call, "There are a lot of Americans out there who are just now really starting to lock in and starting to look for more information and new information, and now is the time for us to provide that for them."
Hours later, secretly recorded video of the candidate's controversial remarks to fundraisers in Florida began to flood the internet. The resulting clean-up effort wiped out another precious "news cycle."
Today, with just 42 days until voters go to polls, the "reset" is back on.
"I'm going to make sure that people understand that this is a different direction for the nation," Romney told ABC News.
If voters want "real and positive change," he said, "that's what I represent."
This latest recalibration is more in line with that the campaign promised in early August, when after months of deliberation Romney picked Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to be his running mate.
With Ryan – celebrated in conservative circles for his "Roadmap" for reforming the welfare state – on board, the Republican ticket was openly girding itself for what promised, surely, to be three months of real talk about "big ideas" and an honest "conversation" about the candidates' fundamentally different paths forward.
But just three days later, Romney, responding to what he perceived to be unfair attacks on Ryan's record, launched a memorable verbal assault on the president's "intellectually exhausted" campaign, one now dedicated, he said, to "diversions and distractions, to demagoguing and defaming others.
"It's an old game in politics; what's different this year is that the president is taking things to a new low."
Three months, it turned out, had been an optimistic figure.
Ryan has been mostly quiet in the aftermath. Republicans insist they are selling Romney's policies, not Ryan's. Romney's Medicare plan would, according to the candidate, "restore" hundreds of billions of dollars President Obama has diverted from the popular program to fund his healthcare reform law. Ryan, by contrast, wants to cut the same amount as the president, but use it differently. Or not at all. Either way, it's not Ryan's plan that matters, they say, but his "ideas."
During a Sept. 9 appearance on "This Week," Ryan was asked if he had any idea what tax loopholes he and Romney would close in order to pay for a proposed, across-the-board 20 percent tax cut.
"Mitt Romney and I, based on our experience, think the best way to do this is to show the framework, show the outlines of these plans, and then to work with Congress to do this. That's how you get things done," the Republican vice presidential nominee said.
Pressed for specifics – "Why not say right now?" he was asked – Ryan labored.
"We want to have this debate with Congress," he said. "And we want to do this with the consent of the elected representatives of the people, and figure out what loopholes should stay or go and who should or should not get them."
Facing the same question Sunday night on "60 Minutes," Romney refused to give away any details.
"If you want to work together with people across the aisle, you lay out your principles and your policy, you work together with, but you don't hand them a complete document and say 'here, take this or leave it,' " he said.
During a rally Monday in swing-state Colorado, post-"reset" Romney spoke about the tax code. President Obama wanted to raise federal rates; he did not.
"Our tax code is extraordinarily complicated," Romney said. "I understand that there are about seven times as many pages in our tax code as in the Bible – and it's a lot less interesting."