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Romney is in Hawaii weighing future, too

By Michael A. Memoli

Chicago Tribune

Published: Sunday, Jan. 2 2011 10:17 p.m. MST

KAILUA, Hawaii — During his vacation on Oahu, President Barack Obama is spending some time with aides to map out the course of his administration in the coming year, one in which his campaign for a second term in the White House will begin taking shape.

Meanwhile, not more than a half-hour flight away on the island of Maui, a leading Republican is gathered with family discussing a likely campaign challenge to Obama. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and unsuccessful candidate for the 2008 presidential nomination, is celebrating the holidays with a two-week vacation of his own in the Aloha State.

Despite their geographical proximity, the two trips are about as different as most of their ideological views. For Obama, every outing beyond his Kailua compound is chronicled in detail. A traveling press corps numbering in the dozens has camped out for more than a week in Waikiki to report on the presidential stay on the island where he grew up and went to school.

Romney, meanwhile, is vacationing in relative obscurity on the more sparsely populated Valley Island. Maui politicos say there have been few if any sightings of the governor. An aide divulged little beyond simply confirming the details of the family getaway.

"I ask people if they've seen Mitt Romney around, and they haven't," reported John Henry, chairman of the Maui County Republican Party.

Romney's trip also contrasts with a 2009 visit to the island by another possible White House hopeful, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The gossip website TMZ, among others, caught her wearing a "McCain" campaign visor with her 2008 GOP running mate's name blacked out.

"They were really after her and covered everywhere she went. I haven't heard anything like that for Mitt Romney," Henry said.

What little has been heard of Romney came from the governor himself.

"Merry Christmas, everyone. We are in Hawaii with the entire family," Romney posted on Twitter just before Christmas.

Along with the message were two photos, showing him and his family resting during a run along the coast.

Running certainly seems to be on Romney's mind. His annual Christmas card showed a smiling Romney with his wife, Ann, and 14 grandchildren. The caption read: "Guess which grandchild heard that Papa might run again?"

Spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom would not say where 2012 ranks among topics of conversation for the Romney clan this holiday. But it was about this time four years ago, during a trip to Utah, when the family discussed Romney's first presidential run.

Romney said during an appearance on NBC's "Tonight Show" last month that he had, in fact, already taken a poll of his grandchildren.

"It was 60-40 in favor of doing it," he told Jay Leno.

With one national campaign under his belt and over two years since then on the national scene, Romney enjoys something of a privileged position among would-be 2012 Republican candidates. Lesser-known candidates have been making more overt moves to build up their national profile, but Romney needs less time to transform his political activities back into a full-blown campaign.

Although the first votes in the 2012 presidential sweepstakes won't be cast until February of next year, the campaign is likely to begin in earnest in the coming months.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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