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5 Things You May Not Know About Mitt Romney

Will the conventional take on Mitt Romney — that he aims to please everyone — take him to the convention in 2012 and on to the Republican presidential nomination?

Time will tell.

For now, the electorate is getting acquainted (and reacquainted) with the man who has seemingly been in the spotlight his whole life.

Born in 1947, Willard "Mitt" Romney is the youngest child of George Romney — an automobile executive, three-term governor of Michigan, himself a Republican presidential candidate, and secretary of Housing and Urban Development in President Richard Nixon's first term.

Mitt Romney is a Mormon. He holds a law degree and an MBA from Harvard University. For two decades he worked with Bain & Co., a consulting firm in Boston, where he rose to CEO. His first political foray was ambitious: an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Massachusetts Democratic icon Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994. In 2002 he oversaw the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and then ran for governor of Massachusetts and won.

A button from George Romney's 1968 Republican campaign for president.
A button from George Romney's 1968 Republican campaign for president.

He sought the Republican nomination for president in 2008. He has been the subject of many books — some written by him, some by others. But here are five things you may not know about Romney:

1. He once spoke out against the Vietnam War. In 1970, a 23-year-old Mitt Romney was interviewed in The Boston Globe about the Vietnam War. "If it wasn't a political blunder to move into Vietnam," said Romney, whose father was then serving in Nixon's Cabinet, "I don't know what is."

2. He was once accused of "trying to bribe" a park ranger. In his new book, Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics, author Ronald B. Scott writes that when Romney was a young father, he led a family outing to a state park in Massachusetts. When Romney got ready to launch his unlicensed boat, a park ranger said it would cost him $50 if he did. Romney offered the ranger the money, was accused of trying to bribe the ranger, and was arrested for disorderly conduct. Charges were eventually dropped.

3. His wife's parents once opposed their marriage. Ann Davies' parents did not want their daughter marrying too young or converting to Mormonism, according to Ronald B. Scott. She converted at age 18, and married Romney just a month before turning 20. Ann's parents "were ardent advocates of zero population growth and wary of Mormonism, particularly the way it encourages large families," Scott writes. "Each time Ann gave birth to a new son [the Romneys had five], her parents grumbled openly that Ann and Mitt were overpopulating the earth ... Finally, in frustration, Ann delivered an ultimatum: Knock it off or you won't be seeing as much of your grandsons as you'd like."

George Romney with his wife, Lenore, and teenage son Mitt, after announcing he would seek the Republican nomination for governor of Michigan in 1962.
/ AP
George Romney with his wife, Lenore, and teenage son Mitt, after announcing he would seek the Republican nomination for governor of Michigan in 1962.

4. He once spoke out in favor of big-box stores. When Romney was managing general partner of Bain Capital, his company invested in Staples office supply stores. Romney told The New York Times that he saw the deep-discount chain as "a classic 'category killer' like Toys 'R' Us."

5. He did not actively support California's Proposition 8 to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry. "Although the Mormon Church actively supported Proposition 8 in California in 2008 and encouraged church members throughout the U.S. to contribute time and money to the cause, Mitt Romney did not get involved in the fundraising efforts, although some of his current staff members in California were key players in the [ultimately successful] Proposition 8 campaign," Ronald B. Scott says in an interview. Along similar lines, Scott adds: "After meeting with an apostle of the Mormon Church who was encouraging Mitt ... to get involved in getting Massachusetts to adopt a 'Definition of Marriage Amendment' to its constitution that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, Mitt emerged from the meeting and advised confidants: 'We're just not going to do that.' "

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.