Mitt Romney has long been a front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination—even if no one really knows who he is. Digging into the candidate’s record as a Mormon leader, his business deals at Bain Capital, and that infamous car trip with the family dog strapped to the roof, Michael Kranish and Scott Helman pierce the Mitt bubble in an adaptation from their new book, The Real Romney, to find that the contradictions, question marks, and ambivalence go deeper than his politics.
By Michael Kranish and Scott Helman
Mitt Romney’s privileged pedigree was common knowledge to his classmates at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, where he was simultaneously enrolled in 1971 through a joint-degree program. By that time, his father, George Romney, had run a major corporation (American Motors), been elected three times as Michigan’s governor, sought the presidency, and been appointed to President Nixon’s Cabinet. Despite strongly resembling the elder Romney—the full head of strikingly dark hair, square jaw, dazzling smile—Mitt did little to draw attention to his parentage. The only hint was George’s faded gold initials on a beat-up old briefcase that Mitt carried around.
In truth, Mitt cherished his father’s example and endeavored to follow it. George became more than just a mentor to his youngest son. He was a pathfinder, showing the way of their Mormon faith through the thickets of politics and business, home life, and character. Through his achievements and mistakes, George had bestowed many lessons, and Mitt soaked them up. “His whole life,” said John Wright, a close family friend, “was following a pattern which had been laid out by his dad.” So with his wife, Ann, as a partner and his father as an inspiration, Mitt set out to build a family, a career, and a place in the church that he loved.
The Romneys’ Mormon faith, as Mitt and Ann began their life together, formed a deep foundation. It lay under nearly everything—their acts of charity, their marriage, their parenting, their social lives, even their weekly schedules. Their family-centric lifestyle was a choice; Mitt and Ann plainly cherished time at home with their children more than anything. But it was also a duty. Belonging to the Mormon Church meant accepting a code of conduct that placed supreme value on strong families—strong heterosexual families, in which men and women often filled defined and traditional roles. The Romneys have long cited a well-known Mormon credo popularized by the late church leader David O. McKay: “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” They had arrived in the Boston area with one son, Taggart, and soon had a second, Matthew. Over the next decade, the Romneys would have three more boys: Joshua was born in 1975, Benjamin in 1978, and then Craig in 1981.
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