A prominent businessman, religious family man, and former governor of Massachusetts with current positions well within today’s conservative mainstream, Mitt Romney might seem like an ideal candidate for the Republican Party nomination. Certainly, his square-jawed, clean-cut, hardworking, image hasn’t hurt him as a top-tier candidate. Nevertheless, as a member of the still controversial Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints and a formerly pro-choice and arguably moderate governor of the state many conservatives most love to hate, Governor Romney’s popularity with socially conservative voters and others remains an open question.
Willard Mitt Romney was born in 1947, the son of prominent Michigan auto executive George Romney, who would later become governor of the state and a Republican presidential candidate. Growing up very much within the bosom of the LDS church, young Mitt Romney did all that was expected of him, and more. He performed two and a half years of missionary service in France, married his high school sweetheart, Ann Davies, and transferred from Stanford to Brigham Young University, where he became class valedictorian. For graduate school, he moved from the Republican stronghold of Utah to the liberal bastion of Massachusetts, attending both Harvard Law and Harvard Business Schools and graduating with high donors in both disciplines.
With school behind him, the future governor embarked on a successful career as a management consultant and later the head of a private equity investment firm, Bain Capital. By the early nineties, however, politics beckoned.
Romney ran for Senator and won the primary election. The stakes were extremely high — but the odds weren’t exactly in his favor. He was a Republican running in the nation’s most famously liberal state and, worse, his opponent would be longtime incumbent Ted Kennedy, one of the nation’s most famous liberals and an enormous force in state politics. Still, this was 1994 and change was brewing nationwide.
Though 1994 was the year of a major political realignment, Romney wasn’t a big part of it. Despite briefly polling nearly even with Kennedy, a hugely expensive and bitter election chipped away at the Romney campaign. Among other low points, the Kennedy camp didn’t flinch from using the religious issue, accusing the Mormon church of racism because of a ban on black priests that had been rescinded about a decade and a half earlier. Romney was defeated by 17 percentage points, which was actually the narrowest victory of Kennedy’s career. Nevertheless, it was a major blow. Also, a Kennedy quip — that Romney was not so much pro-choice as “multiple choice” — would be long remembered. Romney returned to corporate life.
In 1999, however, Romney moved back to Utah to take a job as the head of the organizing committee for the upcoming 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The Olympic efforts had earlier been plagued by scandal and financial problems, and he was widely credited with the $100 million profit earned by the 2002 games despite increased post-9/11 security costs.
Romney returned to Massachusetts and cashed in his business success for political chips, using his strong record of management expertise as a selling point in the 2002 gubernatorial election. He handily defeated a weak candidate in the Republican primary and bested Democrat Shannon O'Brien by five points in the general election, handing Republicans a significant victory with national implications.
Once the new Governor was in office, the state enacted a series of tax increases and rule changes, moving from a $1.2 billion deficit to a $700 million surplus. Naturally, both aspects of the new governor’s policies were controversial. Business didn’t care for the increase in tax bills; others noted resulting significantly increased college tuitions and higher property taxes in some areas. Through all of this, the Democratic state legislature was moving state policy somewhat to the left, overturning innumerable vetoes.
In 2003, Governor Romney found his state at the center of major national controversy with the Massachusetts supreme court legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Romney had already been on record opposing both gay marriage and civil unions, but now he was forced to take center stage on the contentious issue. Since then, the governor has identified himself as a strong opponent of gay marriage but also as an equally strong proponent of other civil rights for lesbians and homosexuals. Not surprisingly, the position has met with little enthusiasm either from gay rights supporters or many on the religious right.
In 2006, Governor Romney made national news by signing the Massachusetts health reform law, the first statewide law mandating health insurance for all citizens and subsidizing the premiums of low income residence. Long discussed as a possible presidential candidate, Romney had announced his intention not to run for second term the year before. He formed his presidential exploratory committee the day after leaving office.
Since then, Romney has been widely seen as a major contender and is usually mentioned in the same breadth as the Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Fred Thompson, but many questions remain. Most of those questions center on belief (backed by some polls) suggesting that non-LDS Americans, may find voting for a Mormon difficult. And there is also the widespread perception that Romney is, at heart, a moderate tacking harshly to the right to win the conservative-dominated GOP primary. Nevertheless, with his classical good looks, sunny disposition, and spotless record as a family man, Romney makes a strong contrast with several of his competitors and remains the most traditional candidate running in a very traditional party.
Mitt Romney on the Web
A detailed rundown of Governor Romney’s life.
Official web site of the Romney for President campaign. Includes a biography, news, and a campaign blog written by Governor Romney’s five sons.
“Loss in '94 Taught Romney to Fight Back”
An entry in an NPR series on Presidential candidates’ first campaign covers Romney’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat Ted Kennedy and the lessons the future governor learned.
The Encyclopedia Mittanica
As the name implies, a comprehensive wiki site compiled by a Romney supporter.
Features the governor’s own blog as well as special audio and video material.
Mrs. Romney’s own corner of the Romney campaign site. Includes video of Ann Romney, information about her campaign to raise awareness about MS (multiple sclerosis) and recipes from the Romney kitchen.
“Mitt Romney: True Strength for America’s Future”
Official YouTube channel for the Romney campaign.
“The Real Romney?”
Brief conservative anti-Romney video includes footage regarding abortion from his 1994 debate against Ted Kennedy.
“Governor Romney on ’94 Debate w/Kennedy”
Mitt Romney responds and states his current positions on social issues.
Response to Question on Global Competitiveness
In response to a YouTube questioner, the governor explains his belief in free trade and why he thinks education is crucial in terms of America’s economic and physical security.
“Governor Romney on Immigration & Healthcare”
From an appearance by Mitt and Ann Romney with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren
On the Campaign Trail
While the Romney campaign remains in the upper tier of Republican presidential hopefuls, there’s been a distinct lack of forward motion. A win in the Iowa straw poll was minimized in the minds of many by the non-participation of the party’s two front-runners. Also, the governor’s expensive win was overshadowed by Governor Mike Huckabee’s inexpensive second place showing, with Huckabee getting the lion’s share of news coverage.
Also, a gaffe in which Governor Romney seemed to compare his sons’ involvement in the Romney campaign with military service in Iraq made the late night comedy show rounds, but remained a minor blow. More serious bad news for Romney came in the form of some Fall 2007 polls numbers from the early state of New Hampshire. Once well ahead of early nationwide GOP leaders Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain in the state, observers later believed that his early lead has evaporated and wondered if a lack of momentum could be fatal to his campaign. Nationally, he was polling in fourth place behind McCain and Fred Thompson.
The Quotable Mitt Romney:
On God, Family, and the United States:
“America's culture is also defined by the fact that we are a religious people. We recognize our God not only in our Declaration of Independence, but even in our currency. And we are also unique in that we recognize that the family is the fundamental building block of American society.”
On the importance of social issues:
“America cannot continue to lead the family of nations around the world if we suffer the collapse of the family here at home.”
“Kids in our urban schools, most of them minorities, are not succeeding at anywhere near the rate of their counterparts in the suburbs. And let me be clear: the failure of our urban schools to prepare our children today for the challenges of tomorrow is the civil rights issue of our generation.”
On the politics of being a Mormon:
“Joining a faith is a far more serious matter than choosing something fashionable.”
Comments, questions and suggestions can be sent to Gerardo Orlando at email@example.com.