Friends say such an image is utter distortion. In person, they say, Romney is warm and engaging, with a penchant for bursting into song. Romney singing "America the Beautiful" used to be a fixture of his early campaign appearances.
Philip Barlow, a professor of Mormon history at Utah State who served with him in church described a meeting years ago in which Romney glided backwards across the room in a perfect rendition of Michael Jackson's "moon walk."
"He just has a certain personality and style," Barlow said, "Even when he's relaxing at his beach house in shorts flipping burgers and joking, there is still an elegance or formality about him."
Others see a kind of patrician entitlement, a sense that Romney feels superior to most, destined even, to hold the highest political office in the land.
Some observers simply don't know what to think
Tony Kimball, who served as executive secretary during Romney's stint as stake president, said that while he has tremendous respect and affection for his friend, he is baffled by the candidate's ever-shifting positions on issues and his opaqueness on policy.
"I don't have a clue who this guy is right now," said Kimball, a retired professor of government and politics. "But he is not the person I worked with back in the '80s and '90s."
Kimball said he will not be voting for Romney.
But family friend Douglas Anderson, a Democrat who voted for Obama in the last election, said he will vote for Romney.
"While I am very sympathetic to many of the goals of President Obama," Anderson said, "I think Mitt Romney is an extraordinary individual with the capacity to make an enormous contribution to this country. And I am eager to see him have that chance."