Fortunate Son: Mitt Romney's life is his father's legacy

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16 2007 12:00 a.m. MST

"I saw how he solicited views from other people, how he built a team of great individuals, how he made decisions based on data and analysis and solid thinking and not just gut feeling or opinion," Romney said.

The son would later serve as driver and advance man when Lenore Romney ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1970 on a Republican platform notable for its embrace of abortion rights.


Romney's most formative political experience came during the 1968 presidential campaign.

George Romney was an early favorite after launching his campaign from the family's summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Then, during an interview shortly after he visited Vietnam, he expressed frustration with the increasingly unpopular war and with the generals he felt were misleading the public.

"I'd just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get," George Romney told a television reporter.

"Brainwashing" became "brainwashed" in some accounts, and before Romney knew it, a throwaway line had blossomed into questions about his mental health. He quit the campaign a few weeks before the New Hampshire primary.

Back at his typewriter, George Romney put the loss in perspective for his son.

"Your mother and I are not personally distressed," he wrote. "As a matter of fact we are relieved."

The reversal of fortune was bitter for Mitt Romney and would grate on him for the next four decades.


One day as a Cub Scout, young Mitt and some friends spotted a young girl across a set of railroad tracks, riding a horse bareback.

"What do Cub Scouts do when they see a little girl on a horse?" Romney recalled in a later interview. "We picked up stones and threw them."

Fast-forward to a friend's house party several years later, when Mitt Romney, then 18, spied the same girl, Ann Davies.

This time, Mitt offered 15-year-old Ann a ride home, even though they came with different dates. Later he would confess he was smitten by the fetching teen. Their first date was all-American: a screening of "The Sound of Music."

On another outing, Mitt and Ann joined others in using ice blocks to slide down hills at a local golf course at night.

"We did that with a bunch of high school friends and got caught and got put in the paddy wagons," Ann Romney recalled. "He was just fun, fun, fun to be with him in high school."

As their relationship deepened, Ann asked Mitt about his religion. He feared she would be scared off, but he did his best to explain the basic tenets of the faith. Instead of running away, Ann found in the religion something missing in her life.

Romney proposed marriage at the senior prom. In the fall of 1965, he left for Stanford University but put his studies on hold after one year to undertake his missionary trek — a tradition among male members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the proper name for the Mormon church.

Then, in June 1968, Mitt Romney died — briefly.

He was driving the president of the Mormon mission in France, H. Duane Anderson, and four others on a winding road when their Citroen was struck head-on by a Mercedes that had just passed a truck.

Anderson's wife was killed. A police officer took the unconscious 21-year-old driver for dead and wrote "Il est mort" ("He is dead") on Romney's passport.

As word trickled back to Michigan, George Romney appealed to the U.S. ambassador to France, Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., for assistance. Shriver tracked down Romney, battered but alive, in a local hospital.

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