Romney takes summer break before big campaign push

By Kasie Hunt

Associated Press

Published: Monday, July 2 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

After the service's first hour, some of the children headed home — but not Mitt and Ann Romney. They stayed for at least part if not all of the two additional hours of meeting time after the sacrament service, which offers bread and water instead of bread and wine. That's a variation of the communion service that allows for the Mormon prohibition against alcohol.

The church service aside, Romney's newly heightened political status threatens to transform Wolfeboro, a quaint, classic resort town of about 6,000 people.

Small restaurants, clothing stores and ice cream shops — some, they say, in operation for a century or more — line Main Street, where during the summer the traffic backs up past the grocery store where Romney sometimes shops. If it becomes a presidential summer destination, it could face the same development and crowding issues that have confronted Kennebunkport, Maine, where President George H.W. Bush's family has a compound.

In past years, Romney has gone running by himself down the private driveway that leads to his 6,700-square-foot, six-bedroom home. The home and the 2.2 acres it sits on are worth $3.5 million; the surrounding land the Romneys have purchased, as well as the boat garage, are worth millions more. The house is easily seen from the water of Lake Winnipesaukee, with a side facing the lake and lounge chairs lined up along the beach.

The candidate keeps a 29-foot Sea Ray boat in the enormous three-boat garage outside of his lakefront estate. He also has a small Boston Whaler, two of the Sea Doo water skis and a Malibu water ski boat. In past summers, he's been spotted water skiing on the lake.

Perhaps the only sign that something's different this summer is the security. Law enforcement boats are parked just off the compound's beach. A Secret Service agent sat quietly behind the family in church on Sunday. And, when Romney travels to town, instead of riding a bicycle, he's in a black SUV flanked by security cars.

This year, questions about whom Romney will choose as his vice presidential running mate hang over his vacation.

The Republican National Convention is drawing closer, and Republicans are speculating that the candidate may be spending part of his summer meeting with potential vice presidential running mates.

Fueling the talk is the fact that Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, whom many observers consider a top contender, will be in New Hampshire next weekend for a Republican fundraiser in Concord. Another potential running mate, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has visited the house before: He and his wife shared a meal with the Romneys before Pawlenty endorsed his former rival's presidential bid.

For now, there's a sense of normalcy to this vacation.

On Sunday evening, Romney sat with two of his sons on the deck above the lawn on the back of the house, relaxing while his eldest son, Tagg, held one of his twins in his arms. Golf carts ferried family members up the hill and past the boat house, and just one or two Secret Service agents were visible through the trees.

No matter who wins in November, it will be different next summer.

Associated Press staff photographer Charles Dharapak contributed to this report.

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