I asked whether part of his decision to run was an effort to fulfill an ambition that his father, the late Michigan governor George Romney, never did. “I love my dad,” he said. “It’s fair to say that I probably would not have thought of politics had I not seen my mom and dad involved in politics. . . . But my decision to run for office was really in no way a response to my father’s campaign. It was instead a recognition that, by virtue of a series of fortunate events, I was in a position to run for president and potentially become president. And I felt if I didn’t do so, given that opportunity, I would have been letting down my country, my family and the future.”
Romney’s confidence about his reasons for running masked considerable ambivalence as he was preparing for the 2012 campaign. Based on what he told family members in private conversation, there were times when he seemed anything but certain about his commitment to running or his confidence of winning.
At Christmastime in 2006, he and his family — his wife, Ann; five sons; five daughters-in-law; and many grandchildren — had gathered at their home in Utah. They were there to make a final decision about a 2008 presidential campaign, which Romney had been pointing toward for more than a year. A video of their activities showed Romney energetically shoveling snow off the deck of their home, him sledding with his grandchildren, children sliding down stairs on mattresses, the general chaos of a house filled with people and constant activity. The video concluded with the family seated in the living room discussing the pros and cons of Romney running for president, with the prospective candidate taking notes on a pad of paper.
Family members cajoled and flattered. “If people really get to know who you are, it could be a success,” Craig Romney said. Tagg Romney, the oldest son, said: “I don’t think you have a choice. I think you have to run.” He added, “I look at the way your life has unfolded. You’re gifted. You’re smart. You’re intelligent. But you’ve also been extraordinarily lucky. So many things have broken your way that you couldn’t have predicted or controlled that it would be a shame not to at least try, and if you don’t win, we’ll still love you.”
“Maybe,” Romney interjected, to chuckles from his family. “Maybe.” Tagg picked up again: “The country may think of you as a laughingstock, and we’ll know the truth and that’s okay. But I think you have a duty to your country and to God to see what comes of it.”