I told Mitt as he geared up to run in 2008 that I had been trying to get a Romney in the White House for 40 years! Mitt is, in many ways, remarkably like his father. If you compare their pictures (with George at Mitt's age) you can hardly tell them apart, other than that George went gray a bit earlier. More important than their similar looks, both were blessed with the ability to see the big picture and to inspire and bring people together.
But there were (and are) some differences. George was smart, relying on a street sense that went beyond his limited formal schooling; Mitt is beyond smart, enhancing his intelligence with degrees from both Harvard Law and Harvard Business schools.
But Mitt, in a conscious effort to avoid some of the gaffes and shoot-from-the-hip answers that doomed his father's campaign, became overly cautious and "programmed" in the 2008 campaign, and his efforts to present himself as a gun-loving, flag-waving ultra-conservative came across as disingenuous and as pandering to the right (and felt at odds with his balanced, centrist record in Massachusetts).
But for 2012, Mitt is simply running as who he is, and with an attitude of "what you see is what you get — take it or leave it" that reminds me of George. Mitt knows that this is his last run, and seems to essentially be saying, "If I win, I will do so by being myself and not by trying to fit someone else's mode or model of what the Republican nominee should be." Even on the issue of his healthcare plan in Massachusetts, his approach and attitude matches with the title of his book, "No Apologies." The real Mitt, it turns out, is even more like George than people realized.
Perhaps the most extraordinary similarity of all between father and son is that Mitt, like George in his time, is one of the few people of his generation to reach the pinnacle of success in all three sectors of our society — business: president and CEO of Bain, among the largest consulting and venture capital companies in the world; politics: governor and leading presidential candidate; and volunteer and nonprofit: head of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics.
The real Mitt, and the one the public is seeing more of in this campaign, is approachable and direct, and has a unique kind of "confident humility" that allows him to listen as well as lead. He is charming and funny in a self-deprecating way. He is a great dad and grandpa and has a remarkable partnership with Ann, who is his equal in every way. One day in 2008, during a campaign and fundraising meeting I attended in his Park City home, Mitt disappeared during the socializing and no one could find him. I finally located him in one of the upstairs bedrooms comforting a crying grandchild and changing a messy diaper.
I don't know that these kinds of experiences demonstrate any special qualification for president of the United States, and many other candidates have lived lives of great distinction, but believe me when I say that Mitt and Ann Romney, like George and Lenore Romney before them, have the right answers for the question-title of this column: "Why the Family."
The Eyres' next book is "The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child With a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership." Richard and Linda are New York Times No.1 best0selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com. "The Entitlement Trap" can now be preordered. See details at www.valuesparenting.com.
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