Editors’ Note: Come next January, we will be seeing a new face in the White House. This political shift is one of the most anticipated in recent years and carries with it the future of our troubled nation. For the past several months, the political fervor has been high: candidate signs are stuck firmly in lawns, people are glued to CNN/YouTube debates and Bush countdown clocks adorn key chains and office desks.
To say the least, this election year is an important one, and TBG will be taking an in-depth look at one hopeful each month in an effort to get a conversation started on campus about who we want to run our country. Although Mitt Romney is no longer in the running, his campaign journey was an important one, especially in terms of his success in this state. By November, you should be well prepared to cast your ballot.
[romneypic]The presidential campaign trail is a long and difficult road that only a select few prominent political figures enter into. Even fewer actually make to the end.
Willard Mitt Romney’s campaign trail began shortly after his announcement to vie for a Republican presidential nomination on Feb. 13, 2007. Throughout his campaign, Romney focused his crusade on ways of improving the nation’s economy, strengthening borders against illegal immigrants and opposing troop withdrawal from Iraq. His personal goal came to an end nearly one year later, on Feb. 7, when Romney “suspended” his run for the Republican presidential nomination.
Romney swore, just days before he announced his removal, he would stick with the campaign regardless of the outcome of “Super Tuesday,”, the day when the largest number of states hold their presidential primaries. He found himself quickly losing ground to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the polls, but was optimistic that the Super Tuesday primaries would swing the votes back in his direction.
The results were less than favorable, as it was a Republican Party landslide victory for McCain, who won 602 delegates to Romney’s 201. This was likely the breaking point for Romney, but earlier mishaps and miscalculations are what plagued his campaign, ultimately resulting in his withdrawal.
In many ways, Romney’s life has mirrored that of his father, George Romney. Each of the two men has served as a Republican governor, an influential businessman, a strong follower of the Mormon faith and a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.[ballot]
While growing up, Romney was able to learn from his business-savvy father, who reinvented the American Motor Corporation (AMC). He was able to turn a once-struggling automobile business, earning $7 per share, into a powerful production company, earning more than $90 per share. George Romney also was honored on the cover of Time magazine. Romney could see the role politics played in the life of his family. His idolization and fondness of his father was able to prepare Romney for his future endeavors leading up to the time of his campaign withdrawal. Romney stated the experience he received growing up helped him through difficult times during his own campaign, while also implementing strategies his father used along the campaign trail. “Not only did I watch it, he taught me how to do it,” said Romney during a campaign speech, speaking on his father’s campaign efforts.
Romney’s strong ties to Michigan, thanks to his father’s roles as governor and CEO of AMC, helped to give him extra support and an important win in the Michigan primary. Mitt especially valued the votes of those within Michigan and made it a goal of his campaign to repair the state’s broken economy.
However, the support he received from Michigan and other states was not enough to keep the campaign going. Romney further followed in his father’s footsteps with his withdrawal from the presidential campaign, echoing the same action George Romney took 40 years ago in the 1968 presidential election. Both men were simply outdone by their party rivals and felt it was best to cut their losses and focus on improving the chances for their party’s front-runner to become the next president of the United States.
[mitt]The first obstacle Romney had to overcome in his quest for presidency was that of his faith: Romney has long been a Mormon and deeply values its religious beliefs. Romney and his advisers were aware his religious views would not be well accepted by large voting demographics within the Republican Party, but tried to sway opposing voters with messages that the tenets of Mormonism really were not all that novel. In a Dec. 6 speech in College Station, Texas, Romney made it clear he was not going to lose sight of his religion throughout this process, even if it cost him a nomination.
“I believe in my Mormon faith and endeavor to live by it,” he said. Later, Romney affirmed, “Some believe such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience. Americans tire of those who jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.”
Bruce Dale, local mission leader for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, does not believe voters should base their vote on a candidate’s religion, stating that “a vote based solely on religion is bigotry.” However, Dale feels religion is an important aspect of a president’s candidacy. “I hope that a person’s faith is an integral part of their presidency,” Dale said. “I thought Romney was a strong candidate and I appreciate his efforts.”
Romney and his advisers believed such a strong stance on religion would make Romney appear stable and firm in his convictions on other issues. Through having a strong religious outlook, Romney said all faiths across the country were important and deserved their own recognition. “No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith,” Romney said during his Dec. 6 speech. “For, if he becomes president, he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”
Ben Morlock, chair of the MSU College Republicans, has a similar outlook to Romney’s. “I would like to think that people in our society have reached a point that a person’s personal beliefs wouldn’t affect their vote,” Morlock said. “Not many people have a full understanding of Mormonism. Had he received the nomination, we may have a better understanding of it.”
While Romney stood firm on spiritual aspects, contradictions to his stance on important subjects during his campaign for president were not easily forgotten by voters. With regard to gay rights and same-sex marriage, Romney has been accused of flip-flopping since 1994. At that time, Romney had been challenging Edward Kennedy for a Senate seat when an article published in the The Boston Globe quoted Romney as saying homosexuality was “perverse.” Eight years following that article’s release, Romney met with members of Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights organization. At this time, Romney was campaigning for governor of Massachusetts and seemed to have a new outlook toward the gay community. He worked with leaders of the Log Cabin group and drafted a letter that expressed his commitment for gay rights. Romney pledged his support for federal legislation that barred discrimination against gays and lesbians in the work force, while also standing behind President Clinton’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.
After being elected governor of Massachusetts, Romney fulfilled his promise to the Log Cabin members and other gay rights groups and began ordering clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. During his presidential campaign, however, Romney reverted back to opposing same-sex marriages and civil unions. He has called for the Constitution to be amended, while also condemning court rulings in some states, including Iowa, that overturned bans on gay marriages.
Romney says he has always personally opposed same-sex marriages, but evidence shows his ideals have indeed flip-flopped, and not only with regard to the issue of civil unions. Abortion is another subject where Romney’s beliefs have not always been clear-cut. While seeking a seat in the Senate in 1994 and during his campaign for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney stood in favor of putting the decision of life or death in the mother’s hands. As he did with civil unions, Romney switched his position on abortion during his presidential run and opposed abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.
Romney stated he has matured over the years and with that, his viewpoint on important issues have shifted along with that maturity. He points to a specific meeting in 2004 that changed his outlook, during which Romney met with a stem-cell researcher who made him feel as though the value of human life had been diminished. Today, Romney’s stance is that each state should make laws concerning abortion rather than have a national “one size fits all” model from the Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in 1973.
“I felt that his changing stance on issues made him unreliable and was unsure about what may happen if he were elected as our president,” said Dan Ulman, a political theory and constitutional democracy senior. “Had he been more firm on certain issues, I believe his campaign would not have ended as early as it did.” [romney]
Mitt Romney not only lost the chance to be our nation’s next president, but a portion of his personal savings as well. It is estimated Romney spent more than $35 million of his own fortune on his campaign efforts, while raising another $55 million along the way, totaling more than $90 million on the failed drive. Romney spent $7 million in Iowa on television and radio advertisements alone, only to finish second in the polls. With his personal wealth estimated at $350 million, thanks in large part to wise investments as CEO of Bain Capital, one of the nation’s top five largest private equity firms, $35 million only depletes one-tenth of his total worth.
“For me, the first sign that things weren’t going well in his campaign is when you consider how much Romney spent on advertising and other resources in Iowa,” Morlock said. “All that, only to have [fellow Republican contender Mike] Huckabee, who spent a miniscule amount, defeat him in the caucus.”
Now that his campaign has seen its end, Romney recently made the decision to support John McCain’s presidential push. Romney asked the delegates he received along the way to instead vote for McCain to help him reach the 1,191 delegates needed for nomination. “As all of you saw over the past year, things can get pretty rough in a political campaign,” Romney said. “And in the thick of the fight, it is easy to lose sight of your opponent’s finer qualities. But the truth of the matter is that in the case of Senator McCain, I could never quite do that. Even when the contest was close, and our disagreements were debated, the caliber of the man was apparent.”
For now, Romney has returned to his home in Massachusetts to rest, spend time with his family and consider his future options in politics and business. He may never be in charge of a country, but there is always another company to run.