Everything I know about being a father, about loving this country, about being a husband, I learned from my Dad. —Josh Romney, son of presidential candidate Mitt Romney
MILLCREEK — Josh Romney eagerly traded his business suit for jeans Friday afternoon and jumped alongside his five young children on a backyard trampoline.
Between helping his youngest child, 1-year-old Sawyer, down a slide and refereeing a swinging contest between his older boys, Nash, Owen and Wyatt, Romney said none of the children are excited about their grandfather running for president.
Even nine-year-old Gracie, ready to leave for ballet class in tights and slicked-back hair styled by her mother, Jen, only manages a shrug when asked whether her third-grade classmates ever ask her about Mitt Romney.
While the presumptive GOP presidential nominee remains simply "Papa," to all of his 18 grandchildren, Josh Romney is spending at least one day a week on the campaign trail in the hopes they'll also be able to call him president.
"That's why he's in the race, for his grandchildren. He wants them to have the same opportunity and hope in this country he had as a boy," Romney said, a message he and his brothers are sharing with voters around the country.
"We give a different perspective of my Dad, who he is as a father, where his priorities really are," he said. "I think people assume he's just a businessman and very serious. We're able to show a lighter side of my Dad, show that really, family is the most important thing to him."
Romney acknowledged not everyone sees that side of his father. Mitt Romney has been accused of flip-flopping on issues and of being unable to relate to voters because of his own privileged background and personal wealth.
"I think it takes time. I think a lot of voters are just starting to get to know my dad," Josh Romney said, calling the unflattering portrayals "part of politics. We've got six months to really introduce my dad to voters."
Utah voters, of course, already know Mitt Romney as the Boston businessman and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brought in to turn around the scandal-scarred 2002 Winter Olympics.
Since then, Utahns have poured millions of dollars into his two presidential campaigns and giving him an unprecedented 90 percent of the vote in the state's 2008 GOP presidential primary.
Josh Romney said his father has such strong backing here because Utahns had the time to see what he had to offer as a leader. His father, he said, "is a humble guy. Deep down, it's not in his nature to tell everybody how great he is."
Romney insisted he's not bothered by what's said about his father — or by being booed himself at campaign appearances. Last week, supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul jeered Romney when he took the stage on behalf of his father at the Arizona state Republican Party convention.
"Really, I almost find it kind of fun. It's part of the process. It's part of the energy and excitement of politics," Romney said. "At the end of the day, my dad knows who he is. I know who my dad is. The people closest to my dad know who he is, so we don’t get that affected by it."
There are five Romney brothers, but just two live in Utah. Ben Romney, a second-year radiology resident at the University of Utah medical school, seldom makes campaign appearances. But Josh Romney, who has flirted with running for office in Utah, relishes reaching out to voters.
"Everything I know about being a father, about loving this country, about being a husband, I learned from my Dad," Romney said. "For me to be on the campaign trail is just natural. I love doing it for my Dad. I like being out there."
The pair have few differences when it comes to politics, Romney said. "My Dad and I politically line up really closely. There's nothing, there's never really been a moment where I have to try to answer for my Dad and not for me. Obviously, we don’t line up on everything, but he's pretty convincing."
Romney, a graduate of Brigham Young University like his brothers, owns Romney Ventures, a real-estate development firm with offices on downtown's Pierpont Avenue.
He sounds decidedly less enthusiastic about following his father into the business world. "Real estate pays the bills and it's where I need to unfortunately spend most of my time," Romney said.
But he said he felt rewarded by his work for Charity Vision, an organization providing medical care to the poor in Third World countries. "At the end of the day, those are the things you can look back on," Romney said.
Four years ago, Romney considered a bid for the 2nd District seat held by the state's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, and later, joining a GOP ticket challenging Gov. Gary Herbert.
He said he'd had no second thoughts about putting aside his political ambitions while his children are young. "It would have been really hard for the family, so I don't regret that at all," Romney said.
Now his political involvement is limited to supporting his father, as well as Matheson's current Republican opponent, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love and longtime GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, who faces his first primary in 36 years.11 comments on this story
November's presidential race will be close, Romney predicted.
"I think we've got a great shot at winning and I feel really confident about our chances. So we're working as hard as we can," he said. "But we know it's going to take every effort. We can't expect it to happen."