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GOP convention's closing night: Getting to know Mitt Romney

TAMPA, Fla. — The final night of the Republican National Convention will showcase the personal side of Mitt Romney, something he has been reluctant to show to voters.

The program will focus on Romney's work experience, faith and charity. It will culminate in a deeply personal acceptance speech that aides hope will make Romney relatable to viewers.

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Thursday's schedule is packed with individuals who know Romney from his time in the Mormon Church and at Bain Capital — two things the campaign has so far been reluctant to talk about. Three individuals who worked with Romney in the Mormon Church will address delegates assembled in Tampa, along with two families who Romney helped minister during a time of need.

"What you're going to see tonight is a lot of telling Gov. Romney's personal story," Romney aide Russ Schriefer said on a conference call with reporters Thursday morning.

The convention will also show a short film that highlights some of the success stories of Bain Capital and features a speech by Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg.

Republicans hope that by directly highlighting elements of Romney's biography, they'll be able to earn the upper hand on some of the issues most often attacked by Democrats. 

The Obama campaign has repeatedly hammered Romney's personal wealth and tenure at Bain Capital in ads and speeches, but Republicans want to focus on the charity and job creation that were a byproduct of Romney's business career.

The Romney team has employed a similar strategy to boost Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). By going on offense — promoting Ryan's Medicare plan as the responsive alternative to the president, rather than something to hide from senior voters — Republicans have thus far been able to neutralize their biggest concern with the Ryan pick.

Similarly, Republicans know Romney's biggest weakness is being personally unknown.

According to a poll released Tuesday by CBS News, nearly a third of voters (32 percent) say they don't know enough about Romney to form an opinion. That number is larger among those who claim no partisan affiliation: 37 percent say they have no read on the Republican candidate.

Meanwhile, Romney continues to run a deficit among voters that have made up their mind. Of those surveyed, 36 percent say they have a favorable view, versus just 31 percent who carry a favorable view.

And they know Romney will struggle to project the up-from-their-bootstraps themes that highlighted widely heralded speeches by Ryan and Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday night.

"Barring coming out in a Hawaiian shirt and bowling shoes, I don't know what Mitt Romney can do to make himself not seem like a corporate CEO," said Republican strategist Chris Ingram. "But his resume is his greets strength, and a successful speech will explaining who he is."

Romney advisers say they know they need to provide voters with a more intimate connection with their candidate, and say he will address it head on.

"Voting for president is a personal decision by many voters," said Romney adviser Kevin Madden on MSNBC. "I think this is an extraordinary opportunity now to reach voters. I don't know much about them. How did that arrive and why does he think he has the best vision for the country? Seeing him through the lens will help people. We have to seize the opportunity and the governor will do it."

And Madden acknowledged earlier in the week that discussion would include his faith — the subject on which Romney has been most reluctant to speak.

 "I think this is a speech where he is going to talk a lot about what's informed his values, what's informed his outlooks, and, of course, his faith is an important part of that, it's an important part of who he is as a husband and father," Madden said. "And so I think you can expect some of that."