Utahns may get the chance to vote for a Romney this November after all Josh Romney, the son of former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, says he's considering a run for Congress.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Mitt Romney may end up on the ballot as a vice presidential candidate or even, some suggest, the party's nominee if the campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., continues to falter.
Josh Romney told the Deseret Morning News that after a year of campaigning across country for his father, he's been approached to run as a Republican against 2nd Congressional District Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.
"I haven't ruled it out," Josh Romney, 32, of Millcreek, said of becoming a candidate himself. "I'm pretty young, but I've had good experience on the campaign trail." Plus, he said, he likely could count on his father's supporters here in Utah.
He also has to consider whether he's ready to take on the rigors of another race and spend more time away from his wife, Jen, and their three children, Owen, 1; Wyatt, 3; and Gracie, 5; as well as his career in real estate development.
Josh Romney is the only one of the family's five sons who lives in Utah. His father, who served as the head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, was considered a "favorite son" presidential candidate in Utah.
Mitt Romney collected more contributions in Utah than in any other state except California and won Utah's Feb. 5 GOP primary with 90 percent of the vote. He and his family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as are the majority of Utahns.
During his father's campaign, Josh Romney drove a motor home to each of Iowa's 99 counties and represented his father in a number of other, mostly Western states, including Wyoming, Alaska and Colorado.
The efforts of Josh Romney and his four brothers, though, weren't enough to keep his father in the race. Mitt Romney recently ended his bid for the White House after a poor Super Tuesday showing overall on Feb. 5 and endorsed McCain.
Josh Romney called speculation that his father could be back in the race as either a vice presidential candidate or even at the top of the ticket as the GOP's presidential candidate "possible. Unlikely, but possible."
Although Mitt Romney has taken himself out of the race, McCain's campaign has been hurt by a report that implied he had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist. Political pundits have said that could lead to an opening for another candidate, especially Mitt Romney.
For now, Josh Romney said, his father and mother, Ann, are taking a break from politics. This past weekend, they skied at Deer Valley, where they have a vacation home. Just after the announcement that ended the campaign, the family gathered in San Diego.
The end of his father's years-long quest for the presidency didn't come as a surprise, Josh Romney said. Mitt Romney had counted on winning the first two states to hold elections, Iowa and New Hampshire, but lost both as well as other key states, including Florida and California.
"My dad's a guy who understands the reality of a situation and can take a very unemotional approach, very objectively, and that's what he did," Josh Romney said. "Not winning isn't the end of the world."
Still, the loss in Iowa was especially tough, Josh Romney said. "It killed a lot of my dad's momentum, to be honest. That was really damaging," he said of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee winning Iowa after months of his father leading in the polls.
Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, brought out a surprising number of evangelical voters in Iowa. They weren't voting against a Mormon candidate, Josh Romney said, but he did run into some "pockets of bigotry" occasionally on the campaign trail.
"When it's religion, you definitely take it personally," he said. "It's highly offensive, but I think that the vast majority of people we saw were very accepting. They said, 'Your dad shares our values and we don't care about his religion."'
Only a few times, he said, did he hear voters say they couldn't support a Mormon candidate for president. "I said, 'That's a very un-American thing to say.' I mean, this is a country that based on religious freedom," Josh Romney said.
At the beginning of the campaign, he said, there was much more attention on Mitt Romney's faith, including a Newsweek cover story. "People, when all they knew about my dad was that he was a Mormon, they had a lot of questions about it," Josh Romney said.
That interest had lessened as the campaign season wore on, he said, until Huckabee raised the question of whether Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers during a New York Times interview in December.
That may have hurt his father's campaign, because "it highlighted the fact that his religious views were different" and turned attention back to Mormonism for a few weeks, he said. "It was a smart political move for Gov. Huckabee."
Although there's been some suggestion Mormons didn't benefit from the scrutiny the campaign brought to their faith, Josh Romney believes the attention was helpful. "We're a people who are proud of our beliefs and want to share our beliefs," he said.
Josh Romney said that while he was disappointed his father's campaign didn't succeed, he felt some relief, too. He said he and other family members had mixed feelings about giving up their privacy and not seeing much of Mitt Romney over the next four to eight years.
"I was not that upset," Josh Romney said. "I didn't cry or anything."
Don't look for Josh Romney to hit the campaign trail for McCain, even though his father likely will soon."It's one thing to campaign for my dad, someone whose principles I line up with almost entirely," he said. "I can't say the same thing for Sen. McCain."
E-mail: [email protected]