Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, 64, not only opposes any cuts in the Pentagon budget, but says that military spending must increase. He took a swipe at the president in an address at The Citadel military academy this past weekend, calling Obama’s foreign policy “feckless.” Romney said, “This is America’s moment. We should embrace the challenge, not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell… I will not surrender America’s role in the world… If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president. You have that president today.”
If elected, Romney would also slash the corporate tax rate from a minimum of 35 percent to 25 percent, rewrite or eliminate government regulations, including Obama’s health-care reforms – which he says discourage job creation – and promote free trade and domestic oil and gas drilling.
Romney worked hard all weekend to stay on his message of fixing a broken economy. He didn’t respond to attacks on his Mormon faith, which were much discussed on the Sunday talk shows. But the subject of religion is bound to come up Tuesday in New Hampshire when the GOP candidates face off in their next televised debate. Romney and Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, are currently leading the Republican pack, according to a recent poll among GOP primary voters. As the field narrows, and after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie finally squelched any possibility of making a run, key GOP donors are throwing their support to Romney.
Here, Romney’s take on key issues and insights into his personal life:
1. Small Business. “Taking a weed-whacker to small-business regulation should be a regular agenda item for every growth-oriented state, city, or nation.” As governor of Massachusetts, Romney initiated a “guaranteed 180-day approval process” for employers planning to expand or build in the state.
2. The Stimulus. Unlike some other GOP candidates, he supported the economic stimulus package of 2009, with some caveats. “A stimulus plan is needed without further delay,” he said in the National Review. “But … the government can’t just make itself bigger and more oppressive in the guise of stimulating the economy… Tax cuts [must be] part of the solution.”
3. The Financial Crisis. Romney believes “just about everybody” is to blame – including the Federal Reserve, the bank regulators, the ratings agencies and politicians – all of whom “should have done their jobs… Wall Street should have done enough due diligence as well.”
4. Meet Willard. His full name is Willard “Mitt” Romney. The name Willard was in honor of J. Willard Marriott, a family friend and the future hotel magnate; Mitt was for Milton “Mitt” Romney, a former Chicago Bears quarterback and cousin of father George Romney.
5. The Patriarch. George Romney, Mitt’s father, was born in Mexico to American parents in the Mormon colonies; when the family fled to the U.S. during the Mexican revolution, they lost everything. George worked as a Mormon missionary, spent seven years with Alcoa, and eventually became CEO of American Motors, from 1954 to 1962. He was governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969 and sought the GOP nomination in the presidential election of 1968, which was won by Richard Nixon. He then served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Nixon, from 1969 to 1973.
6. The Missionary. Mitt Romney worked as a Mormon missionary in France for two and a half years, until age 21.
7. Wall Streeter. After BYU and Harvard, where he got degrees in business and law, Romney worked as a business consultant for Bain & Company for several years. He co-founded the private-equity firm Bain Capital in 1984.
8. The Home Front. Romney and his wife, Ann, whom he married in 1969, have 5 sons and 16 grandchildren. The couple met in elementary school, and “he remembers tossing pebbles at her when she rode by on a horse.” She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 and has battled breast cancer.
9. Going for the Gold. Romney “salvaged the 2002 Winter Olympic Games from disaster,” a feat he wrote about in his 2004 book, Crisis, Leadership, and the American Games.
10. Governor Romney. He served one term as governor of Massachusetts, from 2002 to 2006, claiming to have “reversed the decline of a state mired in recession.” In 2006, he implemented “RomneyCare,” a health-care law mandating all residents have health insurance.
11. Speak English. He scrapped bilingual education in Massachusetts and replaced it with English immersion programs – “because the [earlier] program had required that we employ hundreds of teachers to instruct youngsters in Cambodian, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Portuguese, teachers who in many cases would be otherwise unemployed because they weren’t proficient in English.”
12. First Mormon. If elected, he would be this country’s first Mormon president. “I do not define my candidacy by my religion,” he said in a closely watched speech in 2006 about the role of religion in America. “A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.” During his previous run for president, he said he considered the obsolete Mormon practice of polygamy “bizarre.”
13. Nuclear Power. He believes it “is here to stay.” Last year, he said he didn’t understand “why some environmental activists still consider nuclear power a boogeyman,” given that the U.S. had “104 trouble-free nuclear reactors at 65 power plants.”
14. Abortion Flip-flop. In 2005, Romney moved from an “unequivocal” pro-choice position to a pro-life one, a change that rival Rick Perry criticized this past weekend as political pandering.
15. Top Gov. He was elected head of the Republican Governors Association and served in that role for a year (2005-2006).