Election 101: Nine facts about Mitt Romney and his White House bid

Christian Science Monitor– Election 2012

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Election 101: Nine facts about Mitt Romney and his White House bid

Mitt Romney, who declared his candidacy June 2 in New Hampshire, has been groomed to run for president. He has the look and the political lineage. He’s been a governor, the quintessential training ground. And he’s essentially never stopped running since he conceded his first White House bid three years ago.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, accompanied by his wife Ann, arrives to announce his 2012 candidacy for president, on Thursday, June 2, in Stratham, NH.

1. Why is Romney running?

Romney is driven to find solutions to intractable challenges, some say. “He’s ambitious and believes in his ability to solve big problems,” says Doug Gross, state chairman of Romney’s 2008 campaign in Iowa.

The big problem Romney is talking about:America’s precarious economy. He wants to provide the foundation for securing good jobs so America can compete globally. This includes encouraging entrepreneurialism with “lower taxes on employment” and “immediate write-off for capital expenditures,” as he writes in his book, “No Apology: Believe in America.”

Then, there’s the timing factor. Because the pre-primary frontrunner generally turns out to be the Republican nominee, Romney’s 2008 campaign provided a solid launch for his 2012 bid, analysts say. John McCainRonald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush all ran once before they became the nominee

For Romney, the quest for the presidency seems to run in the family, says John Pitney, professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College in ClaremontCalif. Romney’s father, George, former CEO of American Motor Corp., ran for the GOP nomination in 1968 and lost.

“It could be redeeming his father’s name. He worshipped his dad,” says Mr. Gross.

In this May 21photo, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands with people at Farm Boys restaurant during a visit in Chapin, S.C.

2. What are Romney’s strengths?

Romney’s knowledge of and experience with economic issues “convey an air of gravity and authority,” says Mr. Pitney. As founder of the private equity investment firm Bain Capital, he turned around troubled companies. Romney is also credited with rescuing the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games after a bribery scandal and with closing a $3 billion budget deficit in his first year as governor of Massachusetts in 2003.

In this economy, Romney has the edge, supporters say. “Economy and jobs are the top issues on the voters’ minds…. [Romney] knows more about finance and economics, about how jobs are created, and about what it takes to expand private-sector businesses than all of the 2012ers combined,” says a former economic policy adviser to the Romney ’08 campaign, who asked not to be named.

In this May 12, 2011 file photo, Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. on May 12.

3. What are his weaknesses?

“Romney has some issues with authenticity,” says Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster. “It’s very difficult to make a seamless transition of being a governor of a liberal state to being the nominee of a very conservative party.” Romney has changed his positions on abortion and stem-cell research.

Perhaps the most talked-about hurdle forRomney this time is health care. The law he signed as governor of Massachusetts served as the template for the federal law President Obama signed in 2010. Both laws have “an individual mandate that most Republicans find abhorrent,” says Mr. Ayres. For his part, Romney opposes the federal law and says the decision of whether to have an insurance mandate should fall to the states.

“It’s a very tall order to [make the distinction] in a way that would satisfy conservative Republicans,” Ayres says. Observers predict the issue will dog him throughout the race. “I can’t see how it won’t come up in every debate,” Pitney says.

In his ’08 presidential bid, Romney sought to allay voter concern about his Mormon faith by addressing it in a major speech. It may be less of an issue this time because he is known nationally, and it’s not a new story, say political observers. However, they note that many evangelical Christians won’t vote for a Mormon because of the differing beliefs.

Former Massachusetts Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pumps gas into a staff member’s vehicle during a stop at Hillsborough Gas and Repair in Manchester, N.H. on April April 29.

4. What is his natural base of support?

Romney performs particularly well in the West, say political observers. In 2008, he won contests in NevadaMontanaWyoming,Colorado, and Utah.
His “diverse regional base” also includes the Northeast and Midwest, says Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia,Charlottesville. In 2008, Romney won in Maine,Massachusetts, and Michigan, where his father was governor in the 1960s.

When it comes to voting groups, Romney can count on the backing of many Mormons, not an insignificant contingent in the GOP, says Mr. Sabato. Business leaders are a strong support as well, because of Romney’s personal and professional ties, says Pitney.


Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney speaks during a stop at Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q May 19 in Arlington, Texas. (Jim Mahoney/The Dallas Morning News/AP Photo)

5. How is his war chest?

On May 16, Romney raised more than $10 million for his campaign, a one-day demonstration that fundraising is one of his strongest political assets. Previously he focused on raising funds for Free and Strong America PAC, his federal leadership PAC, and affiliated state PACs. The PACs started 2011 with $1.4 million in the bank and raised nearly $1.9 million in the first quarter. Donors include Richard Marriott and Donna MarriottGoldman Sachsand Bain Capital employees, and Staples CEO Ronald Sargent.

Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney listens to a question from a reporter after meeting with students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on May 16. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun/Reuters)

6. What is his political experience?

Romney served one term as governor ofMassachusetts from 2003 to 2007. In 1994 he ran for the US Senate in Massachusetts, but lost to incumbent Sen. Edward Kennedy

Mitt Romney, left, greets supporters during a phone bank fundraiser on May 16 in Las Vegas. The former Massachusetts Gov. and GOP presidential contender worked with volunteers to reach out to voters and donors through cell phones and computers in a bid to raise money. (Julie Jacobson/AP Photo)

7. What is his religious and family background?

Romney, a Mormon, met his wife, Ann Davies, when she was about 10. She was riding a horse in Bloomfield HillsMich., and he was with fellowCub Scouts taunting her. They met next at a high school party in 1965 when Romney was 17. He drove her home, and the two began dating. They married March 21, 1969. The Romneys have five sons, Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig, five daughters-in-law, Mary, Jen, Laurie, Andelynne, and Jen, and 15 grandchildren.

In an April 29, 2011 file photo Presidential hopeful, former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a dinner sponsored by Americans for Prosperity in Manchester, N.H. on April 29. (Jime Cole/AP Photo)

8. Has he written any books?

In 2011, just in time for this campaign, Romney’s book “No Apology: Believe inAmerica” was released, a renamed and updated version (new introduction) of “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” which came out in 2010. In 2004, he coauthored “Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games.”

Former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, shakes hands with US Rep. Charlie Bass (R) of New Hampshire, as he arrives far a dinner sponsored by Americans for Prosperity on April 29. (Jime Cole/AP Photo)

9. In his own words

“Today, Washington is smothering the American spirit. Freedom, opportunity, innovation, pioneering – the very foundations of our national strengths – are under assault.”

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