Willard Mitt Romney is an American politician, businessman and former presidential candidate who has served as the junior United States senator from Utah since January 2019. He previously served as the 70th governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 and was the Republican Party's nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 election.
Raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, by his parents, George and Lenore Romney, he spent over two years from 1966 in France as a Mormon missionary. He married Ann Davies in 1969; they have five sons. By 1971, he had participated in the political campaigns of both parents. Romney earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Brigham Young University in 1971 and a joint JD–MBA from Harvard University in 1975. Romney became a management consultant and in 1977 joined Bain & Company in Boston. As Bain's chief executive officer , he later helped lead the company out of a financial crisis. In 1984, he co-founded and led the spin-off company Bain Capital, a private equity investment firm that became one of the largest of its kind in the nation. Active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout his adult life, Romney served as bishop of his ward and later as a stake president, for an area covering Boston and many of its suburbs.
After stepping down from Bain Capital and his local leadership role in the LDS Church, Romney ran as the Republican candidate in the 1994 United States Senate election in Massachusetts. After losing to longtime incumbent Ted Kennedy, he resumed his position at Bain Capital. Years later, a successful stint as president and CEO of the then-struggling Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics led to a re-launch of his political career. Elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney helped develop and later signed a health care reform law that provided near-universal health insurance access through state-level subsidies and individual mandates to purchase insurance. He also presided over the elimination of a projected $1.2–1.5 billion deficit through a combination of spending cuts, increased fees and closing corporate tax loopholes. He did not seek re-election in 2006, instead focusing on his campaign for the Republican nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Though he won several primaries and caucuses, Romney ultimately lost the nomination to Senator John McCain. Romney's considerable net worth, estimated in 2012 at $190–250 million, helped finance his political campaigns prior to 2012. Romney again ran for and won the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, becoming the first LDS Church member to be a presidential nominee of a major party. He was defeated by incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, losing the Electoral College by a margin of 206–332 and the popular vote by a margin of 47–51%.
After re-establishing residency in Utah, Romney announced his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Orrin Hatch in the 2018 election; he defeated state representative Mike Kennedy in the Republican primary and Democrat Jenny Wilson in the general election. In doing so, he became only the third individual ever to be elected governor of one state and U.S. senator for another state . Romney was sworn in on January 3, 2019. In the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, he voted to convict the president of abuse of power , becoming the first and only senator in U.S. history to vote to convict a president of his own party.
Early life and education Heritage and youth See also: Romney family Willard Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947, at Harper University Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, one of four children born to automobile executive George W. Romney and homemaker Lenore Romney . His mother was a native of Logan, Utah, and his father was born to American parents in a Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. Of primarily English descent, he also has Scottish and German ancestry. A fifth-generation member of the LDS Church, he is a great-grandson of Miles Park Romney and a great-great-grandson of Miles Romney, who converted to the faith in its first decade. Another great-great-grandfather, Parley P. Pratt, helped lead the early church.
Romney has three older siblings, Margo, Jane, and Scott. Mitt was the youngest by nearly six years. His parents named him after a family friend, businessman J. Willard Marriott, and his father's cousin, Milton 'Mitt' Romney, a former quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Romney was referred to as 'Bill'y until kindergarten, when he expressed a preference for 'Mitt'. In 1953, the family moved from Detroit to the affluent suburb of Bloomfield Hills and his father became the chairman and CEO of American Motors the following year and helped the company avoid bankruptcy and return to profitability. By 1959, his father had become a nationally known figure in print and on television, and Mitt idolized him.
Black and white headshot of a young Romney. Romney in Cranbrook School's 1965 yearbook. Brick buildings facing a courtyard Romney began attending Cranbrook School in 1959. Romney attended public elementary schools until the seventh grade, when he enrolled as one of only a few Mormon students at Cranbrook School, a private upscale boys' preparatory school a few miles from his home. Many students there came from backgrounds even more privileged than his. Not particularly athletic, he also did not distinguish himself academically. He participated in his father's successful 1962 Michigan gubernatorial campaign, and later worked as an intern in the Governor's office. Romney took up residence at Cranbrook when his newly elected father began spending most of his time at the state capitol.
At Cranbrook, Romney helped manage the ice hockey team, and he joined the pep squad. During his senior year, he joined the cross country running team. He belonged to eleven school organizations and school clubs overall, including the Blue Key Club, a booster group that he had started. During his final year there, his academic record improved but fell short of excellence. Romney was involved in several pranks while attending Cranbrook. He has since apologized for them, stating that some of the pranks may have gone too far. In March of his senior year, he began dating Ann Davies; she attended the private Kingswood School, the sister school to Cranbrook. The two became informally engaged around the time of his high school graduation in June 1965.
College, France mission, marriage, and children
Mitt Romney and Ann Romney with George Romney and Lenore Romney at the White House in 1969 Romney attended Stanford University during the 1965–66 academic year. He was not part of the counterculture of the 1960s then taking form in the San Francisco Bay Area. As opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War grew, a group staged a May 1966 sit-in at Stanford's administration building to demonstrate against draft status tests; Romney joined a counter-protest against that group. He continued to enjoy occasional pranks.
In July 1966, he began a thirty-month stint in France as a Mormon missionary, a traditional rite of passage in his family. He arrived in Le Havre, where he shared cramped quarters under meager conditions. Rules against drinking, smoking, and dating were strictly enforced. On average, individual Mormon missionaries do not gain many converts and Romney was no exception: he later estimated ten to twenty for his entire mission. He initially became demoralized and later recalled it as the only time when 'most of what I was trying to do was rejected.' He soon gained recognition within the mission for the many homes he called on and the repeat visits he was granted. He became a zone leader in Bordeaux in early 1968, and soon thereafter became an assistant to the mission president in Paris. Residing at the Mission Home for several months, he enjoyed a mansion far more comfortable than the accommodations he had had elsewhere in the country. When the French expressed opposition to the U.S. role in the Vietnam War, Romney debated them. Those who yelled at him and slammed their doors in his face merely reinforced his resolve.
1968 campaign poster showing a smiling George Romney Mitt's father George lost the Republican presidential nomination to Richard M. Nixon and later was appointed to the Nixon cabinet. campaign button advocating Lenore Romney for U. S. Senate Mitt's mother Lenore, promoted here on a button, lost a Senate race in 1970. Mitt worked for her campaign. In June 1968, he was in southern France and driving an automobile that was hit by another vehicle, which seriously injured him and killed one of his passengers, the wife of the mission president. Romney then became co-president of a mission that had become demoralized and disorganized after the May 1968 general strike and student uprisings and the car accident. With Romney rallying the others, the mission met its goal of 200 baptisms for the year, the most in a decade. By the end of his stint in December 1968, he was overseeing the work of 175 others. As a result of his experience there, Romney developed a lifelong affection for France and its people and has also remained fluent in French.
At their first meeting following his return, Romney and Ann Davies reconnected and decided to get married. Before their wedding, Romney moved to Utah and enrolled at Brigham Young University, where Ann had been studying. The couple married on March 21, 1969, in a civil ceremony in Bloomfield Hills and on the following day, they flew to Utah for a Mormon wedding ceremony at the Salt Lake Temple; Ann had converted to the faith while he was away.
Mitt had missed much of the tumultuous anti-Vietnam War movement in America while away in France. Upon his return, he was surprised to learn that his father had joined that same movement during his unsuccessful 1968 presidential campaign. George was now serving in President Richard Nixon's cabinet as United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. In a June 1970 newspaper profile of children of cabinet members, Mitt said that U.S. involvement in the war had been misguided – 'If it wasn't a political blunder to move into Vietnam, I don't know what is' – but supported Nixon's ongoing Cambodian Incursion as a sincere attempt to bring the war to a conclusion. During the U.S. military draft for the Vietnam War, Romney sought and received two 2-S student deferments, then a 4-D ministerial deferment while living in France as a missionary. He later sought and received two additional student deferments. When those ran out, the result of the December 1969 draft lottery where he drew number 300 ensured he would not be drafted.
At culturally conservative BYU, Romney remained separated from much of the upheaval of that era. He became president of the Cougar Club booster organization and showed a new-found discipline in his studies. During his senior year, he took a leave of absence to work as driver and advance man for the unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of his mother, Lenore Romney; together, they visited all 83 Michigan counties. Romney graduated from BYU in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a 3.97 GPA. Romney would give commencement addresses to both the College of Humanities and to the whole of BYU.
The Romneys' first son, Taggart, was born in 1970 while they were undergraduates at BYU and living in a basement apartment. Ann subsequently gave birth to Matthew and Joshua . Benjamin and Craig were born after Romney had begun his career.
Romney wanted to pursue a business career, but his father advised him that a law degree would be valuable to his career even if he never practiced law. As a result, he enrolled in the recently created four-year joint Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration program coordinated between Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. He readily adapted to the business school's pragmatic, data-driven case study method of teaching. Living in a Belmont, Massachusetts house with Ann and their two children, his social experience differed from most of his classmates'. He was nonideological and did not involve himself in the political issues of the day. He graduated in 1975 cum laude from the law school, in the top third of that class, and was named a Baker Scholar for graduating in the top five percent of his business school class.
Business career Main article: Business career of Mitt Romney Management consulting Recruited by several firms in 1975, Romney joined the Boston Consulting Group , reasoning that working as a management consultant for a variety of companies would better prepare him for a future position as a chief executive. Part of a 1970s wave of top graduates who chose to go into consulting rather than join a large company directly, he found his legal and business education useful in his job. He applied BCG principles such as the growth-share matrix, and executives viewed him as having a bright future there. At the Boston Consulting Group, he was a colleague of Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he formed a friendship that has lasted for more than forty years.
In 1977, he was hired by Bain & Company, a management consulting firm in Boston formed a few years earlier by Bill Bain and several other ex-BCG employees. Bain himself would later say of the thirty-year-old Romney, 'He had the appearance of confidence of a guy who was maybe ten years older.' Unlike other consulting firms, which issued recommendations and then departed, Bain & Company immersed itself in a clients' businesses and worked with them until changes were implemented. Romney became a vice-president of the firm in 1978, working with such clients as the Monsanto Company, Outboard Marine Corporation, Burlington Industries, and Corning Incorporated. Within a few years, the firm considered him one of its best consultants. In fact, clients sometimes preferred to use him rather than more-senior partners.
Minor political issues Two family incidents during this time later surfaced during Romney's political campaigns. A state park ranger in 1981 told Romney his motorboat had an insufficiently visible license number and that he would face a $50 fine if he took the boat onto the lake. Disagreeing about the license and wanting to continue a family outing, Romney took it out anyway, saying he would pay the fine. The ranger arrested him for disorderly conduct. The charges were dropped several days later. In 1983, on a twelve-hour family road trip, he placed the family's dog in a windshield-equipped carrier on the roof of their car, and then washed the car and carrier after the dog suffered a bout of diarrhea. The dog incident in particular later became fodder for Romney's critics and political opponents.
Private equity Further information: Bain Capital In 1984, Romney left Bain & Company to co-found and lead the spin-off private equity investment firm, Bain Capital. He had initially refrained from accepting Bill Bain's offer to head the new venture, until Bain rearranged the terms in a complicated partnership structure so that there was no financial or professional risk to Romney. Bain and Romney raised the $37 million in funds needed to start the new operation, which had seven employees. Romney held the titles of president and managing general partner. Though he was the sole shareholder of the firm, publications also referred to him as managing director or CEO.
Initially, Bain Capital focused on venture capital investments. Romney set up a system in which any partner could veto one of these potential opportunities, and he personally saw so many weaknesses that few venture capital investments were approved in the initial two years. The firm's first significant success was a 1986 investment to help start Staples Inc., after founder Thomas G. Stemberg convinced Romney of the market size for office supplies and Romney convinced others; Bain Capital eventually reaped a nearly sevenfold return on its investment, and Romney sat on the Staples board of directors for over a decade.
Romney soon switched Bain Capital's focus from startups to the relatively new business of leveraged buyouts: buying existing companies with money mostly borrowed from banking institutions using the newly bought companies' assets as collateral, then taking steps to improve the companies' value, and finally selling those companies once their value peaked, usually within a few years. Bain Capital lost money in many of its early leveraged buyouts, but then found deals that made large returns. The firm invested in or acquired Accuride Corporation, Brookstone, Domino's Pizza, Sealy Corporation, Sports Authority, and Artisan Entertainment, as well as some lesser-known companies in the industrial and medical sectors. Much of the firm's profit was earned from a relatively small number of deals; Bain Capital's overall success-to-failure ratio was about even.
Romney discovered few investment opportunities himself . Instead, he focused on analyzing the merits of possible deals that others brought forward and on recruiting investors to participate in them once approved. Within Bain Capital, Romney spread profits from deals widely within the firm to keep people motivated, often keeping less than ten percent for himself. Data-driven, Romney often played the role of a devil's advocate during exhaustive analysis of whether to go forward with a deal. He wanted to drop a Bain Capital hedge fund that initially lost money, but other partners disagreed with him and it eventually made billions. He opted out of the Artisan Entertainment deal, not wanting to profit from a studio that produced R-rated films. Romney served on the board of directors of Damon Corporation, a medical testing company later found guilty of defrauding the government; Bain Capital tripled its investment before selling off the company, and the fraud was discovered by the new owners . In some cases, Romney had little involvement with a company once Bain Capital acquired it.
Bain Capital's leveraged buyouts sometimes led to layoffs, either soon after acquisition or later after the firm had concluded its role. Exactly how many jobs Bain Capital added compared to those lost because of these investments and buyouts is unknown, owing to a lack of records and Bain Capital's penchant for privacy on behalf of itself and its investors. Maximizing the value of acquired companies and the return to Bain's investors, not job creation, was the firm's primary investment goal. Bain Capital's acquisition of Ampad exemplified a deal where it profited handsomely from early payments and management fees, even though the subject company itself later went into bankruptcy. Dade Behring was another case where Bain Capital received an eightfold return on its investment, but the company itself was saddled with debt and laid off over a thousand employees before Bain Capital exited . Referring to the layoffs that sometimes occurred, Romney said in 2007: 'Sometimes the medicine is a little bitter but it is necessary to save the life of the patient. My job was to try and make the enterprise successful, and in my view the best security a family can have is that the business they work for is strong.'
In 1990, facing financial collapse, Bain & Company asked Romney to return. Announced as its new CEO in January 1991, he drew a symbolic salary of one dollar . He oversaw an effort to restructure Bain & Company's employee stock-ownership plan and real-estate deals, while rallying the firm's one thousand employees, imposing a new governing structure that excluded Bain and the other founding partners from control, and increasing fiscal transparency. He got Bain and other initial owners who had removed excessive amounts of money from the firm to return substantial amounts, and persuaded creditors, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to accept less than full payment. Within about a year, he had led Bain & Company to a return to profitability. He turned Bain & Company over to new leadership and returned to Bain Capital in December 1992.
Romney took a leave of absence from Bain Capital from November 1993 to November 1994 to run for the U.S. Senate. During that time, Ampad workers went on strike and asked Romney to intervene. Against the advice of Bain Capital lawyers, Romney met the strikers, but told them he had no position of active authority in the matter.
By 1999, Bain Capital was on its way towards becoming one of the foremost private equity firms in the nation, having increased its number of partners from 5 to 18, with 115 employees and $4 billion under management. The firm's average annual internal rate of return on realized investments was 113 percent and its average yearly return to investors was around 50–80 percent on their investments.
Starting in February 1999, Romney took a paid leave of absence from Bain Capital in order to serve as the president and CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games Organizing Committee. Billed in some public statements as keeping a part-time role, Romney remained the firm's sole shareholder, managing director, CEO, and president, signing corporate and legal documents, attending to his interests within the firm, and conducting prolonged negotiations for the terms of his departure. He did not involve himself in day-to-day operations of the firm or in the investment decisions of Bain Capital's new private equity funds. He retained his position on several boards of directors during this time and regularly returned to Massachusetts to attend meetings.
In August 2001, Romney announced that he would not return to Bain Capital. His separation from the firm concluded in early 2002; He transferred his ownership to other partners and negotiated an agreement that allowed him to receive a share of the profits as a retired partner in some Bain Capital entities, including buyout and investment funds. The private equity business continued to thrive, earning him millions of dollars in annual income.
LDS Church service During his business career, Romney held several positions in the local lay clergy. In the early 1970s Romney served in a ward bishopric. He then served for a time as a seminary teacher and then as a member of the stake high council of the Boston Stake while Richard L. Bushman was stake president.
In 1977, he became a counselor to the president of the Boston Stake. He served as bishop of the ward at Belmont, Massachusetts, from 1981 to 1986. As such, in addition to home teaching, he also formulated Sunday services and classes using LDS scriptures to guide the congregation. After the destruction of the Belmont meetinghouse by a fire of suspicious origins in 1984, he forged links with other religious institutions, allowing the congregation to rotate its meetings to other houses of worship during the reconstruction of the Belmont building.
From 1986 to 1994, Romney was president of the Boston Stake, which included more than a dozen wards in eastern Massachusetts and almost 4,000 church members. He organized a team to handle financial and management issues, sought to counter anti-Mormon sentiments, and tried to solve social problems among poor Southeast Asian converts. An unpaid position, his local church leadership often took 30 or more hours a week of his time, and he became known for his considerable energy in the role. He also earned a reputation for avoiding any overnight travel that might interfere with his church responsibilities.
Romney took a hands-on role in the Boston Stake's matters, helping in domestic maintenance efforts, visiting the sick, and counseling burdened church members. A number of local church members later credited him with turning their lives around or helping them through difficult times. Others, rankled by his leadership style, desired a more consensus-based approach. Romney tried to balance the conservative directives from church leadership in Utah with the desire of some Massachusetts members to have a more flexible application of religious doctrine. He agreed with some requests from a liberal women's group that published Exponent II calling for changes in the way the church dealt with women, but he clashed with women whom he felt were departing too much from doctrine. In particular, he counseled women not to have abortions except in the rare cases allowed by LDS doctrine and encouraged unmarried women facing unplanned pregnancies to give up their babies for adoption. Romney later said that the years spent as an LDS minister gave him direct exposure to people struggling financially and empathy for those with family problems.
1994 United States Senate campaign Main article: 1994 United States Senate election in Massachusetts Man smiling at right with sign in background and parents holding toddler at left Campaigning for U.S. Senate in Holyoke, Massachusetts, 1994 For much of his business career, Romney did not take public political stances. He had kept abreast of national politics since college, however, and the circumstances of his father's presidential campaign loss had irked him for decades. He registered as an Independent and voted in the 1992 presidential primaries for the Democratic former senator from Massachusetts, Paul Tsongas.
By 1993, Romney had begun thinking about entering politics, partly based upon Ann's urging and partly to follow in his father's footsteps. He decided to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, who was seeking re-election for the sixth time. Political pundits viewed Kennedy as vulnerable that year – in part because of the unpopularity of the Democratic Congress as a whole, and in part because this was Kennedy's first election since the William Kennedy Smith trial in Florida, in which the senator's reputation had suffered. Romney changed his affiliation to Republican in October 1993 and formally announced his candidacy in February 1994. In addition to his leave from Bain Capital, Romney also stepped down from his church leadership role in 1994.
Radio personality Janet Jeghelian took an early lead in polls among candidates for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat, but Romney proved the most effective fundraiser. He won 68 percent of the vote at the May 1994 Massachusetts Republican Party convention; businessman John Lakian finished a distant second, eliminating Jeghelian. Romney defeated Lakian in the September 1994 primary with more than 80 percent of the vote.
In the general election, Kennedy faced the first serious re-election challenge of his career. The younger, telegenic, and well-funded Romney ran as a businessman who stated he had created ten thousand jobs and as a Washington outsider with a solid family image and moderate stances on social issues. When Kennedy tried to tie Romney's policies to those of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Romney responded, 'Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to take us back to Reagan-Bush.' Romney stated, 'Ultimately, this is a campaign about change.'
Romney's campaign was effective in portraying Kennedy as soft on crime, but had trouble establishing its own consistent positions. By mid-September 1994, polls showed the race to be about even. Kennedy responded with a series of ads that focused on Romney's seemingly shifting political views on issues such as abortion; Romney responded by stating, 'I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country.' Other Kennedy ads centered on layoffs of workers at the Ampad plant owned by Romney's Bain Capital. The latter was effective in blunting Romney's momentum. Kennedy and Romney held a widely watched late-October debate that had no clear winner, but by then, Kennedy had pulled ahead in polls and stayed ahead afterward. Romney spent $3 million of his own money in the race and more than $7 million overall. In the November general election, despite a disastrous showing for Democrats nationwide, Kennedy won the election with 58 percent of the vote to Romney's 41 percent, the smallest margin in any of Kennedy's re-election campaigns for the Senate.
The day after the election, Romney returned to Bain Capital, but the loss had a lasting effect; he told his brother, 'I never want to run for something again unless I can win.' When his father died in 1995, Mitt donated his inheritance to BYU's George W. Romney Institute of Public Management. He also became vice-chair of the Board of the Points of Light Foundation, which had embraced his father's National Volunteer Center. Romney felt restless as the decade neared a close; the goal of simply making more money held little attraction for him. Although no longer in a local leadership position in his church, he still taught Sunday School. During the long and controversial approval and construction process for the $30 million Mormon temple in Belmont, he feared that, as a political figure who had opposed Kennedy, he would become a focal point for opposition to the structure. He thus kept to a limited, behind-the-scenes role in attempts to ease tensions between the church and local residents.
2002 Winter Olympics Further information: 2002 Winter Olympics In 1998, Ann Romney learned that she had multiple sclerosis; Mitt described watching her fail a series of neurological tests as the worst day of his life. After experiencing two years of severe difficulties with the disease, she found – while living in Park City, Utah, where the couple had built a vacation home – a combination of mainstream, alternative, and equestrian therapies that enabled her to lead a lifestyle mostly without limitations. When her husband received a job offer to take over the troubled organization responsible for the 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, to be held in Salt Lake City in Utah, she urged him to accept it; eager for a new challenge, as well as another chance to prove himself in public life, he did. On February 11, 1999, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games of 2002 hired Romney as its president and CEO.
Photograph of Romney standing with microphone in middle of curling lanes Romney, as president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, speaking before a curling match Before Romney took over, the event was $379 million short of its revenue goals. Officials had made plans to scale back the Games to compensate for the fiscal crisis, and there were fears it might be moved away entirely. In addition, the image of the Games had been damaged by allegations of bribery against top officials including prior committee president and CEO Frank Joklik. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee forced Joklik and committee vice president Dave Johnson to resign. Utah power brokers, including Governor Mike Leavitt, searched for someone with a scandal-free reputation to take charge of the Olympics. They chose Romney based on his business and legal expertise as well as his connections to both the LDS Church and the state. The appointment faced some initial criticism from both non-Mormons and Mormons that it represented cronyism and made the Games seem too Mormon-dominated. Romney donated to charity the $1.4 million in salary and severance payments he received for his three years as president and CEO, and also contributed $1 million to the Olympics.
Romney restructured the organization's leadership and policies. He reduced budgets and boosted fundraising, alleviating the concerns of corporate sponsors while recruiting new ones. Romney worked to ensure the safety of the Games following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by coordinating a $300 million security budget. He oversaw a $1.32 billion total budget, 700 employees, and 26,000 volunteers. The federal government provided approximately $400 million to $600 million of that budget, much of it a result of Romney's having aggressively lobbied Congress and federal agencies. It was a record level of federal funding for the staging of a U.S. Olympics. An additional $1.1 billion of indirect federal funding came to the state in the form of highway and transit projects.
Romney emerged as the local public face of the Olympic effort, appearing in photographs, in news stories, on collectible Olympics pins depicting Romney wrapped by an American flag, and on buttons carrying phrases like 'Hey, Mitt, we love you!' Robert H. Garff, the chair of the organizing committee, later said 'It was obvious that he had an agenda larger than just the Olympics,' and that Romney wanted to use the Olympics to propel himself into the national spotlight and a political career. Garff believed the initial budget situation was not as bad as Romney portrayed, given there were still three years to reorganize. Utah Senator Bob Bennett said that much of the needed federal money was already in place. An analysis by The Boston Globe later stated that the committee had nearly $1 billion in committed revenues at that time. Olympics critic Steve Pace, who led Utahns for Responsible Public Spending, thought Romney exaggerated the initial fiscal state to lay the groundwork for a well-publicized rescue. Kenneth Bullock, another board member of the organizing committee and also head of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, often clashed with Romney at the time, and later said that Romney deserved some credit for the turnaround but not as much as he claimed. Bullock said: 'He tried very hard to build an image of himself as a savior, the great white hope. He was very good at characterizing and castigating people and putting himself on a pedestal.'
Despite the initial fiscal shortfall, the Games ended up with a surplus of $100 million. President George W. Bush praised Romney's efforts and 87 percent of Utahns approved of his performance as Olympics head. It solidified his reputation as a 'turnaround artist', and Harvard Business School taught a case study based around his actions. U.S. Olympic Committee head William Hybl credited Romney with an extraordinary effort in overcoming a difficult time for the Olympics, culminating in 'the greatest Winter Games I have ever seen'. Romney wrote a book about his experience titled Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games, published in 2004. The role gave Romney experience in dealing with federal, state, and local entities, a public persona he had previously lacked, and the chance to relaunch his political aspirations.
Governor of Massachusetts 2002 gubernatorial campaign Main article: 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial election
Romney's gubernatorial campaign logo from 2002 In 2002, plagued by political missteps and personal scandals, the administration of Republican Acting Governor of Massachusetts Jane Swift appeared vulnerable, and many Republicans viewed her as unable to win a general election. Prominent party figures – as well as the White House – wanted Romney to run for governor and the opportunity appealed to him for reasons including its national visibility. A poll by the Boston Herald showed Republicans favoring Romney over Swift by more than 50 percentage points. On March 19, 2002, Swift announced she would not seek her party's nomination, and hours later Romney declared his candidacy, for which he would face no opposition in the primary. In June 2002, the Massachusetts Democratic Party challenged Romney's eligibility to run for governor, noting that state law required seven years' consecutive residence and that Romney had filed his state tax returns as a Utah resident in 1999 and 2000. In response, the bipartisan Massachusetts State Ballot Law Commission unanimously ruled that he had maintained sufficient financial and personal ties to Massachusetts and was, therefore, an eligible candidate.
Romney again ran as a political outsider. He played down his party affiliation, saying he was 'not a partisan Republican' but rather a 'moderate' with 'progressive' views. He stated that he would observe a moratorium on changes to the state's laws on abortion, but reiterated that he would 'preserve and protect a woman's right to choose' and that his position was 'unequivocal'. He touted his private sector experience as qualifying him for addressing the state's fiscal problems and stressed his ability to obtain federal funds for the state, offering his Olympics record as evidence. He proposed to reorganize the state government while eliminating waste, fraud, and mismanagement. The campaign innovatively utilized microtargeting techniques, identifying like-minded groups of voters and reaching them with narrowly tailored messaging.
In an attempt to overcome the image that had damaged him in the 1994 Senate race – that of a wealthy corporate buyout specialist out of touch with the needs of regular people – the campaign staged a series of 'work days', in which Romney performed blue-collar jobs such as herding cows and baling hay, unloading a fishing boat, and hauling garbage. Television ads highlighting the effort, as well as one portraying his family in gushing terms and showing him shirtless, received a poor public response and were a factor in his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien, leading in the polls as late as mid-October. He responded with ads that accused O'Brien of being a failed watchdog for state pension fund losses in the stock market and that associated her husband, a former lobbyist, with the Enron scandal. These were effective in capturing independent voters. O'Brien said that Romney's budget plans were unrealistic; the two also differed on capital punishment and bilingual education, with Romney supporting the former and opposing the latter.
During the election, Romney contributed more than $6 million – a state record at the time – to the nearly $10 million raised for his campaign overall. On November 5, 2002, he won the governorship, earning 50 percent of the vote to O'Brien's 45 percent.
Tenure, 2003–2007 Main article: Governorship of Mitt Romney
Romney announcing a Save America's Treasures Historic Preservation grant for the Old North Church in Boston, 2003 The swearing in of Romney as the 70th governor of Massachusetts took place on January 2, 2003. He faced a Massachusetts state legislature with large Democratic majorities in both houses, and had picked his cabinet and advisors based more on managerial abilities than partisan affiliation. He declined a governor's salary of $135,000 during his term. Upon entering office in the middle of a fiscal year, he faced an immediate $650 million shortfall and a projected $3 billion deficit for the next year. Unexpected revenue of $1.0–1.3 billion from a previously enacted capital gains tax increase and $500 million in new federal grants decreased the deficit to $1.2–1.5 billion. Through a combination of spending cuts, increased fees, and removal of corporate tax loopholes, the state achieved surpluses of around $600–700 million during Romney's last two full fiscal years in office, although it began running deficits again after that.
Mitt Romney resting on a wooden desk, flanked by an American flag, a picture of his wife, a lamp, and a painting of mountains Massachusetts State House portrait by Richard Whitney Romney supported raising various fees, including those for drivers' licenses and gun licenses, to raise more than $300 million. He increased a special gasoline retailer fee by $0.02 per US gallon , generating about $60 million per year in additional revenue. Opponents said the reliance on fees sometimes imposed a hardship on those who could least afford them. Romney also closed tax loopholes that brought in another $181 million from businesses over the next two years and over $300 million for his term. He did so in the face of conservative and corporate critics who viewed these actions as tax increases.
The state legislature, with the governor's support, cut spending by $1.6 billion, including $700 million in reductions in state aid to cities and towns. The cuts also included a $140 million reduction in state funding for higher education, which led state-run colleges and universities to increase fees by 63 percent over four years. Romney sought additional cuts in his last year as governor by vetoing nearly 250 items in the state budget; a heavily Democratic legislature overrode all the vetoes.
The cuts in state spending put added pressure on localities to reduce services or raise property taxes, and the share of town and city revenues coming from property taxes rose from 49 to 53 percent. The combined state and local tax burden in Massachusetts increased during Romney's governorship. He did propose a reduction in the state income tax rate that the legislature rejected.
Romney sought to bring near-universal health insurance coverage to the state. This came after Staples founder Tom Stemberg told him at the start of his term that doing so would be the best way he could help people. Another factor was that the federal government, owing to the rules of Medicaid funding, threatened to cut $385 million in those payments to Massachusetts if the state did not reduce the number of uninsured recipients of health care services. Although the idea of universal health insurance had not come to the fore during the campaign, Romney decided that because people without insurance still received expensive health care, the money spent by the state for such care could be better used to subsidize insurance for the poor.
Governor Romney received a tour of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy on May 20, 2005 as part of celebrating Armed Forces Day Determined that a new Massachusetts health insurance measure not raise taxes or resemble the previous decade's failed 'Hillarycare' proposal at the federal level, Romney formed a team of consultants from diverse political backgrounds to apply those principles. Beginning in late 2004, they devised a set of proposals that were more ambitious than an incremental one from the Massachusetts Senate and more acceptable to him than one from the Massachusetts House of Representatives that incorporated a new payroll tax. In particular, Romney pushed for incorporating an individual mandate at the state level. Past rival Ted Kennedy, who had made universal health coverage his life's work and who, over time, had developed a warm relationship with Romney, gave the plan a positive reception, which encouraged Democratic legislators to cooperate. The effort eventually gained the support of all major stakeholders within the state, and Romney helped break a logjam between rival Democratic leaders in the legislature.
On April 12, 2006, the governor signed the resulting Massachusetts health reform law, commonly called 'Romneycare', which requires nearly all Massachusetts residents to buy health insurance coverage or face escalating tax penalties, such as the loss of their personal income tax exemption. The bill also established means-tested state subsidies for people who lacked adequate employer insurance and whose income was below a threshold, using funds that had covered the health costs of the uninsured. He vetoed eight sections of the health care legislation, including a controversial $295-per-employee assessment on businesses that do not offer health insurance and provisions guaranteeing dental benefits to Medicaid recipients. The legislature overrode all eight vetoes, but the governor's office said the differences were not essential. The law was the first of its kind in the nation and became the signature achievement of Romney's term in office.
At the beginning of his governorship, Romney opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions but advocated tolerance and supported some domestic partnership benefits. A November 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision required the state to recognize same-sex marriages . Romney reluctantly backed a state constitutional amendment in February 2004 that would have banned those marriages but still allowed civil unions, viewing it as the only feasible way to comply with the court's ruling. In May 2004 and per the court decision, the governor instructed town clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, citing a 1913 law that barred out-of-state residents from getting married in Massachusetts if their union would be illegal in their home state, he said no marriage licenses were to be issued to those people not planning to move to Massachusetts. In June 2005, Romney abandoned his support for the compromise amendment, stating that it confused voters who opposed both same-sex marriage and civil unions. Instead, he endorsed a ballot initiative led by the Coalition for Marriage and Family that would have banned same-sex marriage and made no provisions for civil unions. In 2004 and 2006, he urged the U.S. Senate to vote in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
In 2005, Romney revealed a change of view regarding abortion, moving from the abortion rights positions expressed during his 1994 and 2002 campaigns to an anti-abortion one in opposition to Roe v. Wade. Romney attributed his conversion to an interaction with Harvard University biologist Douglas Melton, an expert on embryonic stem cell biology, although Melton vehemently disputed Romney's recollection of their conversation. Romney subsequently vetoed a bill on pro-life grounds that expanded access to emergency contraception in hospitals and pharmacies . He also amended his position on embryonic stem cell research itself.
Mitt and Ann Romney at the White House Correspondents Dinner, 2005 Romney used a bully pulpit approach towards promoting his agenda, staging well-organized media events to appeal directly to the public rather than pushing his proposals in behind-doors sessions with the state legislature. He dealt with a public crisis of confidence in Boston's Big Dig project – that followed a fatal ceiling collapse in 2006 – by wresting control of the project from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. After two years of negotiating the state's participation in the landmark Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that instituted a cap-and-trade arrangement for power plant emissions in the Northeast, Romney pulled Massachusetts out of the initiative shortly before its signing in December 2005, citing a lack of cost limits for industry.
During 2004, Romney spent considerable effort trying to bolster the state Republican Party, but the party failed to gain any seats in the state legislative elections that year. Given a prime-time appearance at the 2004 Republican National Convention, political figures began discussing him as a potential 2008 presidential candidate. Midway through his term, Romney decided that he wanted to stage a full-time run for president, and on December 14, 2005, he announced that he would not seek re-election for a second term as governor. As chair of the Republican Governors Association, Romney traveled around the country, meeting prominent Republicans and building a national political network; he spent more than 200 days out of state during 2006, preparing for his run.
The Governor had a 61 percent job approval rating in public polls after his initial fiscal actions in 2003, although his approval rating subsequently declined, driven in part by his frequent out-of-state travel. Romney's approval rating stood at 34 percent in November 2006, ranking 48th of the 50 U.S. governors. In the 2006 Massachusetts gubernatorial election, Democrat Deval Patrick hailed a 20-point win over Republican Kerry Healey, Romney's lieutenant governor, with the win partially due to dissatisfaction with Romney's administration and the weak condition of the state's Republican party.
Romney filed to register a presidential campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission on his penultimate day in office as governor. His term ended January 4, 2007.
2008 presidential campaign Romney formally announced his candidacy for the 2008 Republican nomination for president on February 13, 2007, in Dearborn, Michigan. Again casting himself as a political outsider, his speech frequently invoked his father and his family, and stressed experiences in the private, public, and voluntary sectors that had brought him to this point.
2012 presidential campaign Main article: Mitt Romney 2012 presidential campaign See also: 2012 Republican Party presidential primaries Primary election Mitt Romney sitting outdoors during daytime, with crowd behind him holding up blue and white 'Romne'y signs Giving an interview at a supporters rally in Paradise Valley, Arizona On April 11, 2011, Romney announced, via a video taped outdoors at the University of New Hampshire, that he had formed an exploratory committee for a run for the Republican presidential nomination. Quinnipiac University political science professor Scott McLean stated, 'We all knew that he was going to run. He's really been running for president ever since the day after the 2008 election.'
Romney stood to benefit from the Republican electorate's tendency to nominate candidates who had previously run for president, and thus appeared to be next in line to be chosen. The early stages of the race found him as the apparent front-runner in a weak field, especially in terms of fundraising prowess and organization. Perhaps his greatest hurdle in gaining the Republican nomination was party opposition to the Massachusetts health care reform law that he had shepherded five years earlier. As many potential Republican candidates with star power and fundraising ability decided not to run , Republican party figures searched for plausible alternatives to Romney.
On June 2, 2011, Romney formally announced the start of his campaign. Speaking on a farm in Stratham, New Hampshire, he focused on the economy and criticized President Obama's handling of it. He said, 'In the campaign to come, the American ideals of economic freedom and opportunity need a clear and unapologetic defense, and I intend to make it – because I have lived it.'
Romney raised $56 million during 2011, more than double the amount raised by any of his Republican opponents, and refrained from spending his own money on the campaign. He initially pursued a low-key, low-profile strategy. Michele Bachmann staged a brief surge in polls, which preceded a poll surge in September 2011 by Rick Perry who had entered the race the month before. Perry and Romney exchanged sharp criticisms of each other during a series of debates among the Republican candidates. The October 2011 decisions of Chris Christie and Sarah Palin not to run effectively settled the field of candidates. Perry faded after poor performances in those debates, while Herman Cain's 'long-shot' bid gained popularity until allegations of sexual misconduct derailed it.
Romney campaign event in Toledo, Ohio Romney continued to seek support from a wary Republican electorate; at this point in the race, his poll numbers were relatively flat and at a historically low level for a Republican frontrunner. After the charges of flip-flopping that marked his 2008 campaign began to accumulate again, Romney declared in November 2011: 'I've been as consistent as human beings can be.' In the final month before voting began, Newt Gingrich experienced a significant surge – taking a solid lead in national polls and most of the early caucus and primary states – before settling back into parity or worse with Romney following a barrage of negative ads from Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney Super PAC.
In the initial contest, the 2012 Iowa caucuses of January 3, election officials announced Romney as ahead with 25 percent of the vote, edging out a late-gaining Rick Santorum by eight votes . Sixteen days later, however, they certified Santorum as the winner by a 34-vote margin. A week after the Iowa caucuses, Romney earned a decisive win in the New Hampshire primary with a total of 39 percent of the vote; Paul finished second and Jon Huntsman Jr. third.
In the run-up to the South Carolina Republican primary, Gingrich launched ads criticizing Romney for causing job losses while at Bain Capital, Perry referred to Romney's role there as 'vulture capitalism', and Sarah Palin pressed Romney to prove his claim that he created 100,000 jobs during that time. Many conservatives rallied in defense of Romney, rejecting what they inferred as criticism of free-market capitalism. During two debates in the state, Romney fumbled questions about releasing his income tax returns, while Gingrich gained support with audience-rousing attacks on the debate moderators. Romney's double-digit lead in state polls evaporated; he lost to Gingrich by 13 points in the January 21 primary. Combined with the delayed loss in Iowa, Romney's admitted poor week represented a lost chance to end the race early, and he quickly decided to release two years of his tax returns. The race turned to the Florida Republican primary, where in debates, appearances, and advertisements, Romney launched a sustained barrage against Gingrich's past record and associations and current electability. Romney enjoyed a large spending advantage from both his campaign and his aligned Super PAC, and after a record-breaking rate of negative ads from both sides, Romney won Florida on January 31, gaining 46 percent of the vote to Gingrich's 32 percent.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seen in medium distance on an outdoor stage, with large crowd around them With running mate Paul Ryan in Norfolk, Virginia, during the vice presidential selection announcement on August 11, 2012 Several caucuses and primaries took place during February, and Santorum won three in a single night early in the month, propelling him into the lead in national and some state polls and positioning him as Romney's chief rival. Days later, Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference that he had been a 'severely conservative governor' . Romney won the other five February contests, including a closely fought one in his home state of Michigan at the end of the month. In the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses of March 6, Romney won six of ten contests, including a narrow victory in Ohio over a vastly outspent Santorum. Although his victories were not enough to end the race, they were enough to establish a two-to-one delegate lead over Santorum. Romney maintained his delegate margin through subsequent contests, and Santorum suspended his campaign on April 10. Following a sweep of five more contests on April 24, the Republican National Committee put its resources to work for Romney as the party's presumptive nominee. Romney clinched a majority of the delegates with a win in the Texas primary on 29 May.
General election Polls consistently indicated a tight race for the November general election. Negative ads from both sides dominated the campaign, with Obama's proclaiming that Romney shipped jobs overseas while at Bain Capital and kept money in offshore tax havens and Swiss bank accounts. A related issue dealt with Romney's purported responsibility for actions at Bain Capital after taking the Olympics post. Romney faced demands from Democrats to release additional years of his tax returns, an action a number of Republicans also felt would be wise; after being adamant that he would not do that, he released summaries of them in late September. During May and June, the Obama campaign spent heavily and was able to paint a negative image of Romney in voters' minds before the Romney campaign could construct a positive one.
In July 2012, Romney visited the United Kingdom, Israel, and Poland, meeting leaders in an effort to raise his credibility as a world statesman. Comments Romney made about the readiness of the 2012 Summer Olympics were perceived as undiplomatic by the British press. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, embraced Romney, though some Palestinians criticized him for suggesting that Israel's culture led to their greater economic success.
On August 11, 2012, the Romney campaign announced the selection of Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice-presidential running mate. On August 28, 2012, the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, officially nominated Romney as their candidate for the presidency. Romney became the first LDS Church member to be a major-party presidential nominee.
In mid-September, a video surfaced of Romney speaking before a group of supporters in which he stated that 47 percent of the nation pays no income tax, are dependent on the federal government, see themselves as victims, and will support President Obama unconditionally. Romney went on to say: 'And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.' After facing criticism about the tone and accuracy of these comments, he at first characterized them as 'inelegantly stated', then a couple of weeks later commented: 'I said something that's just completely wrong.' Exit polls published following the election showed that voters never saw Romney as someone who cared about people like them.
Colored map County-by-county results of the election, shaded by percentage won: Obama in blue, Romney in red The first of three 2012 presidential election debates took place on October 3, in Denver. Media figures and political analysts widely viewed Romney as having delivered a stronger and more focused presentation than did President Obama. That initial debate overshadowed Obama's improved presentation in the last two debates later in October, and Romney maintained a small advantage in the debates when seen as a whole.
The election took place on November 6, and Obama was projected the winner at about 11:14 pm Eastern Standard Time. Obama defeated Romney, winning 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206. Romney lost all but one of nine battleground states and received 47 percent of the nationwide popular vote to Obama's 51 percent. Media accounts described Romney as 'shellshocked' by the result. He and his senior campaign staff had disbelieved public polls showing Obama narrowly ahead, and had thought they were going to win until the vote tallies began to be reported on the evening of the election. But Romney's get out the vote operation had been inferior to Obama's, both in person-to-person organization and in voter modeling and outreach technology . In his concession speech to his supporters, he said, 'Like so many of you, Paul and I have left everything on the field. We have given our all to this campaign. I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead this country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader.' Reflecting on his defeat during a conference call to hundreds of fundraisers and donors a week after the election, Romney attributed the outcome to Obama's having secured the votes of specific interest groups, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, young people, and women, by offering them what Romney called 'extraordinary financial gifts.' The remark drew heavy criticism from prominent members of the Republican party.
2016 presidential election and relationship with Donald Trump
By early 2014, the lack of a clear mainstream Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election led some supporters, donors, and pollsters to suggest Romney stage a third run. Regarding such a possibility, Romney at first responded, 'Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no.' Nevertheless, speculation continued: the declining popularity of President Obama led to remorse among some voters; the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine made Romney's 'number one geopolitical foe' remark look prescient; and an August 2014 poll of Iowan Republicans showed Romney with a large lead there over other potential 2016 candidates. A poll conducted in July 2014 by CNN showed Romney with a 53 to 44 lead over Obama in a hypothetical election 'redo.' By early 2015, Romney was actively considering the idea and contacting his network of supporters. In doing so he was positioning himself in the invisible primary – the preliminary jockeying for the backing of party leaders, donors, and political operatives – against former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who had already set a likely campaign in motion and would be a rival to Romney for establishment Republican support. Despite support in some quarters for a third bid for the presidency, there was a backlash against him from conservatives who wanted a fresher face without a history of presidential losses, and many of Romney's past donors were not willing to commit to him again. Romney announced on January 30, 2015 that he would not run for president in 2016, saying that while he thought he could win the nomination, 'one of our next generation of Republican leaders' would be better positioned to win the general election.
As the Republican presidential nomination race went into the primaries season, Romney had not endorsed anyone but was one of the Republican establishment figures who were becoming increasingly concerned about the front-runner status of New York businessman Donald Trump. Romney publicly criticized Trump for not releasing his taxes, saying there might be a 'bombshell' in them. Trump responded by calling Romney 'one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics.' Then Romney gave a speech on March 3, 2016, at the Hinckley Institute of Politics, that represented a scathing attack on Trump's personal behavior, business performance, and domestic and foreign policy stances. He said Trump was 'a phony, a fraud ... He's playing members of the American public for suckers' and that 'If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.' In response Trump dismissed Romney as a 'choke artist'. Romney's speech represented an unprecedented attack by a major U.S. party's most recent presidential nominee against the party's current front-runner for the nomination. Romney encouraged Republicans to engage in tactical voting, by supporting whichever of the remaining rivals had the best chance to beat Trump in any given state, and as such Romney announced he was voting for, although not endorsing, Ted Cruz for president prior to March 22 Utah caucus. As the race went on, there was some evidence of tactical voting occurring, and some partial arrangements were formed among candidates, but by May 3, Trump had defeated all his opponents and became the party's presumptive nominee. Romney then announced that he would not support Trump in the general election, saying, 'I am dismayed at where we are now, I wish we had better choices'.
In June, Romney said that he would not vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton either, saying: 'It's a matter of personal conscience. I can't vote for either of those two people.' He suggested that he may vote for a third-party candidate, or write-in his wife's name, saying she would be 'an ideal president'. When pressed on who of Trump and Clinton was more qualified to be president, Romney quoted P. J. O'Rourke: 'Hillary Clinton is wrong on every issue, but she's wrong within the normal parameters.'
He considered voting for the Libertarian ticket of former Republican Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld , saying that he would 'get to know Gary Johnson better and see if he's someone who I could end up voting for', adding that 'if Bill Weld were at the top of the ticket, it would be very easy for me to vote for Bill Weld for president.' In September he called for Johnson to be included in the presidential debates and in October it emerged that Independent candidate Evan McMullin was using an email list of 2.5 million Romney supporters to raise money. McMullin's chief strategist said that it was purchased from Romney for President.