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Romney: Man in the race for US President

Mitt Romney has finally managed to defeat his opponents and clinch his party's nomination for the presidential elections in November this year. Here's a look at the richest candidate on the 2012 US presidential campaign trail.

world Updated: May 31, 2012 01:47 IST
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Almost as soon as Barack Obama was in the White House, Willard Mitt Romney began building support for the 2012 contest. Romney lost the party's 2008 nomination race to Arizona Senator John McCain but took only a brief break from the campaign trail.

Romney was credited with revamping the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, which had lost significant investor interest because of corruption scandals. He has founded his campaign so far on a message that his experience as a businessman means he will be able to create jobs, unlike US President Barack Obama.

Romney is the co-founder of the private equity firm Bain Capital. When audience members heckled him for pledging not to raise taxes even on the wealthy at the Iowa State Fair, Romney responded by saying, “corporations are people.”

Romney’s greatest challenge in the nomination race is his ability to cast himself as a true conservative. One sticking point is a healthcare law that Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts, which provided near universal healthcare in the state. Republican critics have dubbed the program “Romneycare,” equating it with Obama’s healthcare reform adopted in 2011.

He is the richest candidate on the 2012 campaign trail with a net worth above $200mn.

A Mormon, Romney studied at Brigham Young University and worked as a missionary in France. He graduated from Harvard University with a master’s in business and a law degree.

Former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney was born in Detroit in 1947, and is son of a former governor of the Michigan, George Romney. He has worked as a missionary, consultant and entrepreneur.

His mother, Lenore, gave up an acting career when she met and married his father, George.

Mitt’s father came from humble origins and never graduated from college. He apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter and sold aluminum paint before beginning a career that brought him to the head of American Motors and then the governorship of Michigan.

Mitt married his wife, Ann, in 1969. Between them, they have five sons and sixteen grandchildren.

How wealthy is Mitt Romney?

Mitt Romney's net worth is estimated to be over $200mn. According to analysts at Forbes, 184 assets belonging to Romney were analysed to come up with his net worth.

These are some of his wealth details:

Mutual Funds and ETFs: +$23 million

Real Estate: +$18 million

Cash: +$16 million

Individual Equities: +$600,000

Transportation: +$425,000

Gold: +$260,000

Debt Securities: +$91 million

Bain Alternative Investments: +$52 million

Other Alternative Investments: +$29 million


Gay pranks
In high school, according to The Washington Post, Romney and several schoolmates held down classmate John Lauber and cut off his bleached blond hair after seeking him out in his dorm room at their boarding school. Lauber was "perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality".

The paper recounted another incident in which Romney shouted "atta girl" to a different student at the all-boys' school who, years later, came out as gay.

Romney apologised for his high school pranks saying they may have gone too far and moved quickly to stamp out any notion that he bullied schoolmates because they were gay.

Dog controversy
In 1983, when the Romney family went on vacation, Romney transported his family's pet dog, Seamus, on the roof of their Chevrolet Caprice wagon, for 12 hours. Sometime during the 650-mile trip from Massachusetts to Ontario, the dog became afflicted with diarrhea, causing excrement to flow down the windows of the car. Romney stopped at a gas station to wash the dog and the car, but put Seamus back in his carrier, and continued the 12-hour trip.

This incident has come to the fore during the 2008 presidential elections as well as the current one.

No spell check?
The "With Mitt" application for the iPhone, launched by Romney's campaign managers, allows users to express support for the recently anointed Republican flagbearer by personalising a photo with an overlaid Romney slogan. Trouble is, one of the slogans has a howler of a spelling mistake: "A Better Amercia." "Mistakes happen," Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

"I don't think any voter cares about a typo at the end of the day," she said.

Here are Romney's views on some of the most crucial issues.

Economy and debt:
Romney’s proposals for creating jobs and growing the economy include cutting the top corporate income tax, eliminating the capital gains and dividend taxes for some people, ending regulations on business, promoting domestic energy production, and weakening labor unions.

The former head of the Bain Capital private equity firm says his business experience gives him an advantage over other Republicans and Obama in the quest to create jobs for the sluggish US economy.

Romney's plan seeks to reduce taxes, spending, regulation, and government programs. It seeks to increase trade, energy production, human capital, and labor flexibility. It relinquishes power to the states instead of claiming to have the solution to every problem.

Romney would cut federal spending and reform entitlement programs. He would reduce the size and reach of the federal government and work toward balancing the budget.

Romney would boost domestic energy production and streamline industry regulations to open up territory, on and off-shore, for development. He would pursue energy development partnerships in Canada and Mexico and would make weaning the US off of imported energy from the Middle East a priority over reducing carbon emissions.

His first step will be a rational and streamlined approach to regulation, which would facilitate rapid progress in the development of domestic reserves of oil and natural gas and allow for further investment in nuclear power.

Gay rights and marriage:

Romney was never able to overcome doubts about his authenticity and accusations that he had shifted his positions on abortion and gay rights merely to appeal to the more conservative national Republican electorate.

While opposed to gay marriage, Romney said states should be allowed to grant various domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples, including the right to adopt children.

"States could have their own decisions with regards to the domestic partnership rights," Romney told American news channel, Fox News. "But my preference would be to have a national standard for marriage and that marriage would be defined as being between a man and a woman."

He's viewed skeptically by some conservatives for his past support for abortion rights and gay rights.

National security:
Romney's campaign website states he will never make national-security decisions based upon electoral politics. If elected president, Romney will review transition to the Afghan military by holding discussions with commanders in the field.

Romney will also order a full interagency assessment of our military and assistance presence in Afghanistan to determine the level required to secure our gains and to train Afghan forces to the point where they can protect the sovereignty of Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban.

Withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan under a Romney administration will be based on conditions on the ground as assessed by US military commanders.

On Pakistan, Romney feels the Asian country should understand that any connection between insurgent forces and Pakistan’s security and intelligence forces must be severed. The United States enjoys significant leverage over both of these nations. 'We should not be shy about using it.'

Romney would impose tougher sanctions on Iran to keep it from building nuclear weapons. He wants China declared a currency manipulator and says he would reverse defense spending cuts and take a more aggressive approach to US diplomacy.

He favors an assertive approach toward China, maintaining a strong military presence in the Pacific to ensure open trade routes are maintained, and identifies China and Russia as nations with growing ambitions that must be watched carefully, along with Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Venezuela.

As governor, Romney signed into law a comprehensive healthcare overhaul that required all Massachusetts residents to obtain health insurance and provided subsidies to those who could not afford it or who did not receive it from their employers.

That policy has thrown Mr Romney on the defensive time and again during his bid for the White House.

Critics have accused the former governor of responsibility for Obama's 2010 healthcare plan, which is detested by Republicans, and conceptually similar to the programme Mr Romney signed into law in 2006.

Even before he officially announced his candidacy this time round, Romney made a speech defending the Massachusetts policy while attacking Obama's programme.

Romney also said he would repeal Obama's healthcare reform and replace it with market-based reforms that he says empower states and individuals and reduce healthcare costs. The federal government’s role will be to help markets work by creating a level playing field for competition.

On his first day in office, he would issue an executive order paving the way for all 50 states to get waivers from Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

On Occupy Wall Street protests:
Romney has said Occupy Wall Street protestors are looking for “scapegoats to attack,” and that pinning the blame for economic malaise on Wall Street is the “wrong way to go.” “I think it’s dangerous, this class warfare,” he said while campaigning in Florida.

Social Security:
Romney’s proposes not to raise taxes and he will not affect present seniors or those nearing retirement. He proposes that Social Security should be adjusted in a couple of commonsense ways that will put it on the path of solvency and ensure that it is preserved for future generations. Romney believes that the retirement age should be slowly increased to account for increases in longevity.

For future generations of seniors, benefits should continue to grow but that the growth rate should be lower for those with higher incomes.

Straight fight:

Romney has been regarded as the all but certain Republican nominee for months but made it official on Tuesday as his victory in the Texas primary took him past the 1,144 convention delegates needed to win the nomination.

US President Barack Obama congratulated Romney and said that he looked forward to an important and healthy debate about America's future.

Polls show a slight lead for Obama in what is expected to be a tightly contested race fought out over a handful of battleground states.

Romney on Tuesday expressed confidence that he would win so he could "begin the hard work of fulfilling the American promise and restoring our country to greatness."

The two men are expected to face off in three presidential debates in October, which given the close nature of the race, could be pivotal.

(With various agency inputs, as well as information from Forbes)

First Published: May 30, 2012 22:46 IST