All five of the Romney brothers have been instrumental in Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign — which has truly become a family affair. The youngest, Craig, and his wife, Mary, broke away from a phone bank at the University of Iowa long enough to say why they were willing to put their lives on hold and undertake this endeavor.
“I can’t speak for the rest of my brothers,” said 26-year-old Craig. “But, personally, I don’t think there is anything more important that I could be doing right now with my life than helping my dad to get elected. Obviously, I’m a little bit biased — I mean, he is my dad — but it goes deeper than that. I think the reason I’m willing to put my life on hold right now is that I’ve seen what he’s been able to accomplish as governor. I’ve seen what he’s been able to accomplish as CEO of the Olympics, as a businessman, but — not only that — I’ve seen what kind of father he’s been and what kind of a grandfather he’s been to my son. Because of that, he has my utmost respect and I think there is no one better qualified to be president of the United States.”
Family respect, however, is not just limited to the former Massachusetts governor.
“Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama get a lot of attention,” he said. “But when people get to hear my mom speak they always ask us why we don’t get her out there more. She’s out there! She’s doing everything she can and I think that she’s now starting to get more attention as people realize how really special she is.”
The First Lady hopeful, Ann Romney, launched her own campaign website, has been featured in campaign ads and has hosted conference calls with the press. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the fall of 1998, and devotes time to raising awareness of the disease.
“We always say, when we travel the country, that we want to be campaigning for Ann for First Lady,” said Mary with a laugh.
The brothers’ devotion to their mom and dad and to the presidential campaign drew some fire in late August at a stop in Bettendorf when Mitt answered a question about his sons not being a part of the military.
“The good news is that we have a volunteer Army and that’s the way we’re going to keep it,” the candidate said, adding, “One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president.”
The “good news,” according to Mitt, was that his sons didn’t have to fight if they didn’t want to.
“I think the question was fair,” Craig said. “I also think my dad admits that he made a mistake when he answered that. I don’t think he was actually trying to compare what we do to military service, but it was in the same breath. Because of that, obviously, he understands — and many other people understand — that it was a mistake for him to say that.
“I also understand that what we are doing now makes absolutely no comparison to military service. We have tremendous respect for those who are serving in the military and couldn’t say enough about the sacrifice they are making for the country. What we’re doing is trying to help my dad get elected, but I don’t think that there is really any comparison there.”
Despite what Craig and Mary freely admit was a gaffe, they said there is to be a lesson learned there.
“One of the greatest things about being out there and involved in the community as a part of this campaign is that before we may not have been some of the most politically active people, but now we know what is going on in Washington and throughout the country,” said Mary. “We’ve had opportunity to travel the country and meet with some of the most active people in their communities and in their states. We’re having an opportunity to really learn about the heart of the American people. You do get to get involved. Obviously, it is not on that same level [with military service], but you do get to be involved in this country and what it stands for.”
Craig and Mary, along with their young son, Parker, found home — at least for awhile — in the campaign’s “Mitt Mobile.”
“For a while we were actually between apartments so the Mitt Mobile was home,” Craig admitted and laughed. “We spent a lot of time on the road in New Hampshire, Florida and South Carolina. So, we spent more time in the Mitt Mobile than we did at home. It’s fun. Like Mary said, we’ve been able to get out there and meet people who are politically active, who love this country and want the future to be bright. I think it has been a great blessing… although I might not be singing the same tune a year from now. At that point, I may be saying I just want to go home, but so far it’s been a blast.”
At the time of the interview, the couple had campaigned in Iowa nearly 10 times. They visited a portion of the counties on the 99 county bus tour launched by older brother Josh, had played catch in the field of dreams and rode along on part of RAGBRAI.
“It’s hard to say this because people think you are being disingenuous, but I love it here in Iowa,” Craig said. “The people here are just so kind and real. You know when you are here because — coming from New York City, where we live, it’s just the hustle and bustle and everyone is just getting along with their lives and you just don’t stop and talk to people — and here it is just such a change of pace and so refreshing to meet people who just genuinely kind and willing to help out and do anything. Even those who maybe aren’t supporters of my dad go out of their way to help us.”
Iowans fair “very well” when compared to the rest of the nation and political awareness, he said.
“In my opinion,” interjected Mary, “Iowans are just far above the rest of the nation. You are simply so saturated here.”
Craig added that because Iowa “had long been a critical part” of the nomination process, people here take it seriously.
“I think one of the reasons the rest of the nation trusts Iowa to play their critical role in the process is that Iowans do their research,” he said. “Iowans are going to go out. They are going to hear all the candidates speak. They are going to find out about the issues and do their homework. Part of the reason we are so excited about my dad’s campaign is that he is doing so well here in Iowa. People here in Iowa are very educated and they know their politics. They’ve seen it before and they can tell who is the right person for the job.”