When it comes to talking about their personal and family lives, President Obama and Mitt Romney take starkly different approaches. Put simply, Obama is less reticent about doing so.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama often speak on the campaign trail about the relative modesty of their backgrounds, presumably as a way of fostering empathy with voters.

Obama also refers to the importance of landmark progressive achievements like the GI Bill in the lives of his maternal grandparents, who played a central role in raising him. At other times he has invoked his daughters, Malia and Sasha, to help explain everything from his changed position on same-sex marriage to his support for women’s rights.
Romney does not entirely avoid personal references. Earlier this week, he told donors a story about how, as a child, he discovered that his father George possessed a card entitling him to free McDonald’s food for life.

But the McDonald’s story was a rare example of the candidate overcoming his diffidence. This diffidence might well have deepened when past personal observations, most notably his remark at a February event in Detroit that his wife Ann owned “a couple of Cadillacs,” backfired.

Strategists from both parties expect that Romney’s willingness to talk about his family life might rise by the end of this month, when the Republican National Convention takes place in Tampa, Fla.

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