A review of his remarks at dozens of fundraisers over the past year highlights differences in how he speaks to voters and donors.
LAS VEGAS - In Chicago, Mitt Romney regaled wealthy donors with a boyhood memory of volunteering to clean up a football field, the kind of humanizing tale he typically avoids on the campaign trail.
In Palm Beach, Fla., he walked contributors through a list of the federal agencies he planned to shut down or combine, a level of specificity he had not offered to voters.
At a fundraiser in Wilson, Wyo., he heaped praise on former Vice President Dick Cheney, aligning himself with an unpopular Republican presidency in a way he is loath to do in public.
With its unvarnished tone and political candor, Romney's secretly recorded comments to donors in Boca Raton, Fla., in which he said 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government handouts and do not pay income taxes, seemed jarring to those who have digested a year's worth of his public statements. They suggest the possibility of two Romneys: the careful candidate behind the lectern at a rally, and the blunt man behind closed doors with Republican contributors.
Romney has disputed that characterization, arguing that his vision and values are consistent no matter who is in the audience. "You're coming to my fundraiser and this is the same message that I give to people, which is that we have a very different approach, the president and I," he told reporters.
There is much overlap between what he says to both groups. But a review of his remarks at dozens of fundraisers over the past year highlights differences in how he speaks to voters and donors.
Presidential candidates have always tailored their messages: The speech delivered to oil workers may vary from that to religious leaders. But this year, a single group -- wealthy donors -- has consumed time and energy as never before, creating an almost parallel campaign.
The intimacy of the receptions (including at homes), their transactional nature (donations of $75,000 per couple are often pledged) and familiarity with that audience (usually filled with fellow businessmen and women), appears to put Romney at ease. He uses looser language, divulges electoral strategy, tells detailed personal stories and takes pointed questions.
At rallies, Romney rarely takes questions. But at fundraisers, he is known to field questions for up to an hour.
It was in response to a question from a donor in Palm Beach, Fla., that Romney disclosed that he might eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development. When Romney, in Boca Raton, said that about half the people in the country viewed themselves as "victims," it was in reply to a contributor's question.
His bluntness has even extended to the role of his wife, Ann. In the Boca Raton video, when a donor asked Romney why his campaign was not deploying his wife more, he replied, "So that people don't get tired of her or start attacking." A donor shouted: "Who gets tired of Ann?"