Willard Mitt Romney (born March 12, 1947) is an American politician and businessman. A one-term governor of Massachusetts, he was a leading Republican candidate for president in the 2008 election. He finished second to John McCain in that campaign, but won the Republican nomination in 2012. After a bruising primary fight against other Republican candidates, he trailed the incumbent president, the Democrat Barack Obama, throughout the subsequent presidential campaign. Many polls, however, predicted that the election would be very close, with two prominent polls, Gallup and Rasmussen, actually showing a narrow edge in Romney's favor. To the surprise of many Republicans, however, including Romney himself, President Obama won reelection by a substantial margin in the Electoral College and by nearly four percent of the total votes received, getting nearly five million more votes than his Republican rival.
Romney had a $75 million budget, of which $17 million was from his own pocket. His main techniques were elaborate statewide organization, and tens of thousands of television and radio ads, supported with many personal appearances. He was endorsed by only a few newspapers, and has been dogged by accusations that he radically changed his positions to a hard-right position (especially on immigration) from being a moderate governor, in order to attract right-wing support. He is a Mormon (that is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints); many Christians regard that church as a cult.
Romney's strategy was to concentrate his resources on Iowa and New Hampshire, hoping that victories there on January 3 and 8, 2008, would generate massive favorable publicity. That publicity supposedly would propel him into a dominant position in the Super Tuesday primaries on Feb. 5, 2008, when 45% of the delegates will be chosen. Outspent by Romney 10-1, Mike Huckabee nevertheless scored a major upset in Iowa, coming in first and beating Romney by 9 points. Huckabee swept the votes of evangelical Christians who comprise about 47% of the Iowa Republicans, and 35% of Republicans nationwide. Analysts concluded Romney had to win in New Hampshire to regain his momentum, but he was defeated by Senator John McCain 37-32%, who made a stunning comeback after most thought he was politically dead. Romney promised to fight on, but stopped his TV ads in South Carolina (which has a primary on Jan. 19) to concentrate on the Jan. 15 Michigan primaries in the state where he was born and his father was governor. Romney won Michigan decisively but lost Florida to McCain by a similar margin. He lost most of the Super Tuesday primaries to McCain and Huckabee. Huckabee won the conservative south, therefore splitting Romney's supposed voter base. Despite having the backing of the influential conservative talk show hosts, McCain won the big states such as California, Illinois and New York, giving him a massive edge in the nomination contest. Romney subsequently withdrew from the primaries and later endorsed McCain.
Dean Barnett, a writer and Romney supporter, explains Romney's strengths:
- "Mitt Romney wants to be president out of a sense of duty. He feels our government needs someone with his managerial skills. He also feels that to fight the long war facing us, we need an intellectually curious president who’s willing to learn about an unfamiliar foe and who will fight resolutely to defeat that foe. Mr. Romney cares passionately about social issues, but he knows his Republican competitors can appoint strict constructionist judges as well as he can. The real value of a Romney presidency would lie in the talents, honed in the business world, that he would bring to the White House."
Barney explains Romney's core problem:
- "Early in the presidential race, Mr. Romney perceived a tactical advantage in becoming the campaign’s social conservative.... He made social issues the heart of his candidacy. This tack rang false with the public because it was false. The problem wasn’t so much the perception of widespread “flip-flopping” on issues like abortion. The public allows its politicians a measure of flexibility. But the public correctly sensed something disingenuous about Mr. Romney’s campaign. Voters perceived the cynicism of a campaign that tried to exploit wedge issues rather than focus on the issues that in truth most interested the candidate. They sensed phoniness. As a consequence, many have grown to feel that Mitt Romney can’t be trusted. This lack of trust is now the dominant and perhaps insurmountable obstacle that the Romney campaign faces."
Romney has been consistently a front runner for the Republican Party's 2012 nomination. He was considered a viable candidate shortly after the 2008 election. On April 11, 2001, Romney announced he had formed an exploratory committee. Romney officially announced his candidacy in Stratham, New Hampshire on June 2, 2011. On January 4, 2012, Romney was declared the winner of the 2012 Iowa caucus, beating opponent Rick Santorum by eight votes. Romney won the New Hampshire primary with 39.3 percent of the vote.
Romney is the son of George Romney (1907-1995), who was a prominent Detroit automaker and president of American Motors. He served as governor of Michigan and ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 1964 and 1968.
Mitt attended a Mormon college, Brigham Young University (BA 1971), spent two years as a Mormon missionary in France (thus fulfilling a requirement for all Mormon men), and graduated from Harvard Business School (MBA 1975) and Harvard Law School (JD 1975). In the 1980s he was president for four years of the Mormon Stake in Boston, equivalent to bishop. He is married to Ann Romney and has five children and ten grandchildren.
In Boston Romney became vice president of Bain and Company, a consulting form. In 1984 he founded Bain Capital, an investment company that specialized in "turnarounds" (buying out a faltering company, reorganizing it, and selling it for a profit). He came under attack in his campaign for downsizing the work forces, and for having American companies keep their operations in the U.S. but reincorporate in the Bahamas to escape all income taxes. His fortune has been estimated in the hundreds of millions. In his 2012 bid for President, Romney has been attacked for his role in this company, with his actions being referred to as vulture capitalism.
He gained national fame for rescuing the crisis-ridden, heavily-in-debt Winter Olympics in Utah in early 2002.
Romney ran as a moderate Republican in 1994 against Senator Ted Kennedy; he lost 58%-41% but established a reputation as a solid campaigner.
He ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, spending $6.1m of his own money to defeat Democrat Shannon O'Brien by 50%-45%, even though the state is heavily Democratic in all other state and national elections. Romney governed the state as a moderate Republican, who supported abortion and gay rights and did not support President Bush's 2001 tax cuts. He presided over a health care reform in Massachusetts while also managing to maintain a balanced budget without raising taxes. However in running for president he reversed previous moderate positions and suddenly became a hard-line conservative spokesman.
- Barone, Michael, and Richard E. Cohen. Almanac of American Politics: 2006 (2005)
- Hewitt, Hugh. A Mormon in the White House?: 10 Things Every American Should Know about Mitt Romney (2007), highly favorable excerpt and text search
- Turner, Lisa Ray, and Kimberly Field. Mitt Romney: The Man, His Values and His Vision (2007), highly favorable
- For voting details see CNN at 
- Dean Barnett, "Driving Mr. Romney" New York Times Jan 15, 2008 op ed
- Mitt Romney, Turnaround: Crisis Leadership and the Olympic Games (2004)