This Man’s Mission: Humanize Mitt

Garrett Jackson used to manage the Ole Miss football team, and now he’s Romney’s body guy. Authentic enough for you?

JEWEL SAMAD / Getty Images

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Garrett Jackson, the man always behind Romney with a pen or an iPhone, is taking on a larger role in the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign, as advisers try to put forward a more human and relatable public image of their candidate.

Jackson, a Mississippi native and the Ole Miss football team’s manager for four years , first role to prominence as Romney’s “chair holder” in Iowa, after photographers captured him steadying chair Romney was standing at a campaign stop.

He next surfaced in Mississippi, as Romney pointed to him as the reason he was saying “y’all” and eating “cheesy grits.”

Now the Romney campaign has Jackson taking behind the scenes video, tweeting, and blogging about his time with Romney — everything from what it’s like to walk out into an event as the crowds roar, to what the candidate ate for lunch.

The relationship between the two men was described by one aide as “somewhere between frat brother and blood brother,” sharing laughs across the country as they travel from state to state. Another said the relationship was more like father-son, with Jackson serving as the sixth son while Romney’s children are off the campaign.

“They play pranks on each other on the bus — it’s really not what you’d expect,” he said.

That’s precisely what the Romney campaign is getting at by putting Jackson out there now. He’s there to capture the candidate when he’s the most comfortable — away from the glare of television lights and crowds.

So far it’s been a mixed bag — with supporters of Romney seeing their candidate in a more relatable setting, but with opponents seeing many of the awkward moments that come when Romney speaks off the cuff.

“Protip: authenticity is supposed to be authentic,” tweeted Obama For America digital director Teddy Goff after Jackson posted a video of Romney describing his breakfast from Pancakes Eggcetera in Rosemont, Ill. — “Kind of a play on words,” Romney painfully explained.

Others are more straightforward, with Romney reacting to his victory in the Puerto Rico primary in real time, and without the media filter. It was quickly picked up by news outlets, including BuzzFeed, after Romney referenced The Drudge Report, which has served as a friendly outlet for Romney news.

One staffer said Jackson’s effort is a work in progress, as the campaign experiments with the best ways to provide supporters a window into Romney’s life. (The campaign declined to make Jackson available for this piece.)

In the meantime, Jackson has taken to asking the press corps for blogging advice and the best apps to get for his iPhone. (This reporter is partial to 360, Occipital’s app for creating easy panoramas of events.)

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