Romney: Born to run

Jul 13 2012 - 1:43pm

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"You can't grow up with a role model who was president of American Motors, a three term Governor of Michigan," and an A-list cabinet member under Richard Nixon, said Dan Angel, the biographer of George Romney, without thinking "Gee, my dad ran for president of the United States, maybe I should do that."

It's a story that Mitt Romney told a national conference of Latino elected and appointed officials in Orlando recently. He added, "This is my father's story. But it could be the story of any American."

But it wasn't the story of just any American. It was the story of a young Mitt Romney, who had doors open to him and the drive to succeed. Few Americans -- his father included -- had so many ingredients in place from the get-go.

He had name recognition that preceded him in prep school, college, business and law school, within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in the big business world. The Romney name was hallowed in his father's Michigan, and many elsewhere would have heard of George Romney even if they didn't know the specifics.

It's the type of credibility which comes from having a father who was such a prominent politician, as George W. Bush also had.

Romney had the drive to seek and obtain positions of leadership and power. He was a civic leader at BYU, becoming president of the exclusive Cougar Club and helping to turn it into a prodigious service and fundraising organization.

He was a leader within the church, according to a series of national articles about Romney's faith, during his mission in France and then in school in Provo, Utah. In Boston, Romney was a congregation leader, a bishop, and stake president. He helped build the temple in Belmont, Massachusetts. In fact, Romney's faith can be traced back to his great-great-grandfather, Miles Romney, who became a follower of Joseph Smith in 1837.

And Romney made his mark in business and management -- traits he touts today as he runs for president -- as a founder and CEO of Bain Capital. (He later helped orchestrate the turnaround of the flagging 2002 Salt Lake City games.)

He saw his father attain wealth before running for office. Likewise, Romney's private equity career may have been a means to an end. A recent Boston Globe article described the "reputational risk" the usually-cautious Romney took in the Drexel Burnham deal with Michael Milken, the then-suspected "junk bond king," in the late 1980's. It panned out handsomely for Bain Capital and Romney personally.

A colleague familiar with the deal said Romney took the reputational risk because "he knew that he had to make a lot of money to launch his political career" and there was a "substantial amount of money to be made."

As a young man, Romney observed his parents' political shortcomings. His extreme discipline, at the expense of seeming wooden, is a vestige of his father's unguarded moment when he spoke of Vietnam War "brainwashing." Many believe that stopped George Romney's momentum toward the 1968 Republican nomination.

Moreover, his strategy of presenting his business and gubernatorial biography first, before scratching the surface on policy issues, might be owed to his mother's unsuccessful U.S. Senate run in Michigan in 1970. Later analysis suggests she did not define herself independently to voters.

Of course, Romney's bloodline would not have gotten him to where he is today without his intelligence, stamina, and extraordinary work ethic (which his eldest son, Tagg, attributes to his father's formative years with the church).

In retrospect, it seems that he was destined to run for president from the time he was born. Which begs the question, will one of Mitt and Ann Romney's five sons be the next Romney to run for office?

Adam Silbert, an attorney, served as a deputy field organizer for the 2008 Obama campaign.

 

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