Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Here comes the son
What’s Mitt Romney’s master plan? His father’s rise and fall may hold the answer.

NOW THAT THE memory of his prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention is quickly (and mercifully) fading away, what will Mitt Romney’s next move be? The answer depends, in part, on what happens in this November’s presidential election. If George W. Bush fends off John Kerry, Romney could bolt the Massachusetts State House for a post in a reconstituted Bush cabinet. If Kerry wins, Romney, who mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Ted Kennedy in 1994, might decide to take another crack at the US Senate. Whatever happens in November, Romney also could decide to seek re-election as governor. But some skeptics question Romney’s desire to keep his job. "I don’t think he wants it, but that doesn’t mean he won’t run," says Democratic consultant Michael Goldman. "If he thinks it helps his presidential run in 2008, he’ll stay. If he thinks it doesn’t, he won’t."

Further speculation about Romney’s future need not be deferred until the election, however. The current post-RNC lull is a good time to parse the story of Romney’s father, George Romney — governor of Michigan, secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a failed candidate for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination — for clues about how our own governor may advance his political ambitions. The two men’s careers are marked by an almost eerie parallelism. Yet in key areas, Mitt Romney seems to be using his father’s life as a cautionary tale, defining himself in opposition to George rather than following his lead. Plenty of sons spend a lifetime grappling with their fathers’ legacies — emulating their strengths, avoiding their shortcomings, and generally working to match or outdo them. But Mitt Romney’s own father-son dynamic has clear implications for the state of Massachusetts. And if Romney seeks the presidency, it could matter even more.

WALTER DE VRIES knew George Romney well. De Vries was active in Citizens for Michigan, a Romney-founded group that reworked the state’s government via a 1961 constitutional convention. When Romney was elected governor in 1962, he tapped De Vries as his executive assistant; De Vries kept the post when Romney was re-elected in 1964 and 1966. And when Romney became a trendy pick as the next Republican presidential nominee, appearing on the cover of Time and leading incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson by eight points in one poll, De Vries was a key campaign strategist. So his thoughts on the similarities between George and Mitt Romney bear repeating. "Sometimes it’s scary," De Vries says of the resemblance between father and son. "The first couple of times I saw Mitt Romney in his role in the Olympics, it was astounding. He sounded and looked exactly like his father — same gestures, same facial expressions. It was déjà vu."

Indeed, the physical descriptions George Romney’s biographers offered of their subject — one termed him "jut-jawed and handsome with graying temples," another "a beautiful man, photogenic from any angle" — apply equally well to the son. But the similarities run deeper. George Romney wanted to go to Harvard Business School, but never got there; Mitt Romney graduated from HBS in 1975. George presided over a dramatic private-sector recovery at American Motors; Mitt presided over a dramatic private-sector recovery at Bain & Company. George followed with an attention-getting nonpartisan project, i.e., Citizens for Michigan; Mitt did the same with the Salt Lake Olympics. When Citizens for Michigan’s work was mostly complete, George sought and won the governorship of Michigan; when the Salt Lake Games were finished, Mitt sought and won the governorship of Massachusetts. George was 55 years old when he was sworn in as governor. Mitt? Yup. Fifty-five.

Mitt Romney declined comment for this story. But in Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games, his turgid memoir of the Salt Lake Games (see "Turnaround: A Reader’s Guide," News and Features, August 6), Romney makes his deep respect for his father abundantly clear. (For example, he lauds the "sense of nobility" George brought to the governor’s job.) Charley Manning, a Republican consultant and key Romney adviser, acknowledges that the example set by George, who died in 1995, continues to exert a potent influence on Romney. "I think he’s very, very aware of what his father did during his career," Manning says.

Which raises the question: has our governor made a conscious decision to replicate the path that brought his father to the brink of the Republican presidential nomination? Manning rejects the idea — sort of. "I don’t think there was any blueprint there," he says. "I think Mitt’s own career brought him where he ended up. But the similarities are incredibly great between the two."

As a member of Romney’s inner circle, Manning probably wouldn’t fess up if, say, a huge time line of George Romney’s career (complete with a life-size cutout of Romney the elder) occupied a place of honor in the governor’s State House office. But there’s reason to think that George’s influence, however considerable, has its limits. The form of Mitt Romney’s political career may evoke that of his father. But the content is another story. Consider this: one of George Romney’s major achievements as governor was a new income tax, which he pushed for years and which finally passed the Michigan legislature in 1967. Contrast that with our Romney, who’s poised to make tax relief — and the legislature’s unwillingness to reduce the state income tax to five percent — the major issue for the Massachusetts Republican Party in this fall’s elections. Or this: in 1964, after Barry Goldwater secured the Republican presidential nomination, George Romney irked many of his fellow Republicans by refusing to endorse the Arizona senator. A Romney-affiliated group even distributed fliers that urged voters to split their support between the Democratic and Republican tickets and explained, in minute detail, exactly how this should be done. Our Romney, of course, has been among George W. Bush’s most enthusiastic boosters, trumpeting the president’s perceived virtues on the campaign trail and turning the governor’s office into a de facto headquarters for Bush-Cheney ’04.

To be fair, Mitt Romney is operating in a context markedly different from the one his father knew. In the 1960s, when George Romney championed a tax increase and hiked government spending in his state, fiscal moderates still had a place in the Republican Party. Today, a commitment to aggressive tax rollbacks is the cornerstone of the GOP’s domestic agenda. And in rebuffing Barry Goldwater, George — who had staked out an identity as fiscal and social moderate — was spurning a candidate many dismissed as a conservative extremist. No one could have predicted that during the Reagan years, Goldwater’s vision of the Republican Party would be vindicated. George W. Bush may be a conservative extremist himself (though his big-government cultural conservatism would have made Goldwater gag), but he’s the dominant force in the Republican Party.

page 1  page 2 

Issue Date: September 17 - 23, 2004
Back to the News & Features table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group