Neither Romney nor Chistie has admitted the "hard truths" here (Ezra Klein: click to enlarge)

It is probably too late for the Republican party to make Mitt Romney likeable. His unpopular image is set on the front, and he just seems to lack the personality traits needed to make himself  appear likable.

But you don’t necessarily need to like someone to think they could be a good leader; if you respect them that can be enough. Or so Chris Christie told us last night.

During Chris Christie’s keynote address at the Republican national convention he repeatedly promised that Romney would tell us the “hard truths.” The general theme seemed to be that even if we don’t like Mitt Romney personally, we should respect his seriousness and his toughness. From Christie’s keynote via NPR:

We believe in telling hard working families the truth about our country’s fiscal realities. Telling them what they already know – the math of federal spending doesn’t add up.

With $5 trillion in debt added over the last four years, we have no other option but to make the hard choices, cut federal spending and fundamentally reduce the size of government.

They believe that the American people don’t want to hear the truth about the extent of our fiscal difficulties and need to be coddled by big government.

[...]

Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth and create good paying private sector jobs again in America.

Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy.

Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world’s greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.

The one problem I have with this messaging is, where are all the hard truths Christie promises we’ll get from Mitt Romney? On almost every issue Christie noted, Romney has been either misleading or at best incredibly vague about what his actual policies would be.

On tax matters Romney promises big things that sound great but won’t provide details for how they all add up. He claims he can pay for radically lower rates by eliminating tax deductions, but he won’t say what deductions he would eliminate or how that will affect different tax payers. Independent analysis based on the bold promises Romney has made shows Romney can’t do what he promised without raising taxes on the poor and middle class to pay for tax cuts for the rich. Romney’s campaign tried and failed to refute this analysis, but it won’t do the one thing to clear up the situation: provide the hard details for an actual plan that can be independently examined.

When it comes to federal spending Romney claims he will reduce it significantly, which may sound popular to some, but he won’t tell people the hard truth of which programs he will cut.  Simple math tells us that to meet his promise would require massive cuts, but Romney won’t say what programs will be on the chopping block. This huge ambiguity allows Romney to claim any one program could theoretically be protected from his cuts to dodge claims that he would cut something the voters support.

Bold popular sounding promises are easy.  The reason they often don’t come to be is because the details are hard. If the Romney campaign is going to try to sell Romney as a man who should be taken seriously — because he is willing to tell “hard truths” — then we should at least expect an honest statement of the details.