In the News
Romney Family a Campaign Asset
By GLEN JOHNSON
Mitt Romney values his family, and when it comes to his presidential campaign, his family members are providing value for him.
His wife of 38 years, his five strapping sons and his photogenic daughters-in-law don't just back his candidacy, they're giving it a lift in ways both subtle and overt.
Tagg Romney, his eldest son, quit his marketing job with the Los Angeles Dodgers and is working full-time at campaign headquarters. Brother Josh is taking leave this summer from real estate development in Salt Lake City to drive an RV to all 99 counties in Iowa. And their siblings Craig, Ben and Matt are co-contributors to the "Five Brothers Blog" on Romney's Web site.
This week the online campaign diary included a 13-minute film of the family celebrating Christmas and weighing the approaching campaign. Several family members will be on hand Sunday night for a barbeque at Fenway Park to thank major donors to the campaign.
But beyond those workmanlike duties, the former Massachusetts governor and his brood are telegraphing another message to voters, especially social conservatives pivotal in the GOP primaries and caucuses: Mitt Romney is no John McCain, Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson.
Each of those rivals has been divorced, and Giuliani - the leader in GOP polls - is estranged from his children after a very public split from his second wife.
"Because you've got candidates in this campaign who have not had long, solid marriages and family life, it's a solid point of contrast," said Danielle Vinson, a political science professor at Furman University. "It's a subtle way to point out that he's different from Giuliani without coming out and saying Giuliani has been married however many times and had a nasty divorce."
The focus on family is especially important in Southern states such as South Carolina, where Furman is located, and where the campaign will move after early voting in Iowa and New Hampshire. Southerners are especially suspicious of politicians from the Northeast in general and Massachusetts in particular, Vinson said.
"What family does for candidates is it gives voters a connection to the candidate: 'I'm not just a wealthy, white guy who's made a lot of money. I've raised kids and gone through the same things everyone else has gone through,'" the professor said.
Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, has tried to do the same, campaigning with his wife, Judith. Yet she recoiled from view after revealing that like her husband, she had been married three times - not the twice previously thought. Giuliani himself has had to plead for privacy after his son was quoted about problems in their relationship.
McCain, meanwhile, regularly appears with his wife, Cindy, but a little-discussed element of his biography is his divorce from his first wife, Carol, who waited for him while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Thompson, the former Tennessee senator who is weighing a run for the GOP nomination, married at 17 and had three children before divorcing. He subsequently was linked to country music star Lori Morgan before remarrying in 2002. He and his second wife, Jeri, now have two children.
Among the Democratic candidates, former President Clinton has been raising money and making phone calls on behalf of his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Recently he's taken a more visible role: He appears with her in a campaign Web video and is scheduled to join her at campaign events in Iowa and New Hampshire next month.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, is a popular surrogate speaker for the candidate, as is John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth.
Family has been part of the Romney campaign's genetic code from its conception.
Romney, a former venture capitalist, followed in the footsteps of his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, by serving as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. Then, like George Romney, who ran for president in 1968, he took his gubernatorial stature and used it as the foundation for a White House campaign.
When it became apparent Mitt Romney was going to run last fall, Tagg Romney packed up his own family and moved home to Massachusetts. Ann Romney, the candidate's wife, began to appear on the campaign trail. And over a Christmas retreat to their vacation home in Deer Valley, Utah, the Romneys ostensibly had a final discussion about the merits of a race - even though their private moments were taped by a campaign video crew.
Mitt Romney is seen in an array of homey settings: sledding with some of his 10 grandchildren, supervising them as they ride a mattress down a staircase and leading the family prayer over a holiday meal. Ann Romney narrates most of the film, while her husband asks about how to minimize the downsides of a campaign.
Tagg Romney grows teary-eyed as he urges his father on.
"If you don't win, we'll still love you," he says. "The country may think of you as a laughingstock and we'll know the truth. And that's OK. But I think you have a duty to your country - and to God - to see what comes of it."
mitt romney, ann romney, republican, conservative, 2008 election, romney,
Friday, June 22, 2007
In the News