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‘Mormon Rivals’ — Romneys and Huntsmans: Political dynasties in the making?

First Published      Last Updated Jul 07 2015 11:37 pm

Future rivals? » Next generation could boast office seekers in Josh and Tagg Romney and Abby Huntsman.

Mitt Romney never reached the political pinnacle, and who knows if Jon Huntsman will give it another shot. But neither man believes he will be the last in his family to seek elective office.

Romney's sons Tagg and Josh have caught the political bug and Huntsman's daughter Abby could envision her name on a campaign sign some day as well.

In many ways, they see politics the way a young Mitt did — an extension of father George Romney's successful run for governor and failed presidential bid.

"Like a relay team where the baton passed from generation to generation," Mitt said. Republicans in Massachusetts and Utah were ready for Romney to pass the baton soon after his 2012 defeat.

Massachusetts had a Senate seat to fill when President Barack Obama named Sen. John Kerry secretary of state. The state's Republicans turned to Ann Romney, but Mitt's wife wasn't interested. Next they courted Tagg Romney. He thought it over, but passed. "The timing is not right for me," he said, "but I am hopeful that the people of Massachusetts will select someone of great integrity, vision and compassion as our next U.S. senator."

The state eventually elevated Democratic Rep. Edward Markey to the Senate, not exactly whom the Republicans had in mind.

Josh Romney, Mitt's third son, also came close to launching a campaign. Even before his father's second White House bid, he thought about running for lieutenant governor in Utah on a ticket led by Kirk Jowers, who had headed Mitt Romney's leadership PAC. The Jowers-Romney duo never organized a formal run in the 2010 election.

"In a lot of ways," Josh explained, "it wouldn't have been the right fit for me."

That fit matters, says Mitt Romney, who wants his family's next generation to approach politics the way he and his dad did.

"If one of our boys or our daughters-in-law finds themselves in a position where they could make a real contribution," he said, "and they are needed — school board, mayor, Congress, whatever — I'd expect them to stand up and volunteer."

Ann Romney isn't as gung-ho. She says her sons have young children at home and should stay out of politics until they're older. Still, she said, she could see Tagg seek office some day.

Tagg Romney • In the same way Mitt idolized his father, Tagg has become the mini-Mitt. When he went to Brigham Young University, he rented the same basement apartment his parents did 20 years earlier. He served a mission in France, went to Harvard Business School and made a career in venture capital. Just like his dad. It's not a big leap to say he eventually will enter politics.

Tagg was the only son on hand to see Mitt Romney announce his second presidential bid. Tagg and Ann were the only Romneys who initially supported a 2012 run, and they were the duo who pushed him to the brink of running again in 2016.

Whether Tagg wants to make the jump is one thing; whether he has a place to land is another. Massachusetts hasn't gotten any less liberal since his dad became governor there in 2003, and the Romney name has lost some of its sheen.

"He is in a tough position," said Josh Romney. "I think being a conservative in Massachusetts is not an easy thing to do."

Tagg Romney bought some land in Park City, though he has yet to build on it. If he decided to relocate his wife, Jennifer, and their six children to Utah, he would live in a conservative bastion where he instantly would be a top-tier prospect for any elective office.

His younger brother brushed off that suggestion quite abruptly. "He's not a Utah resident," said Josh Romney, in what easily could be seen as protecting his own home turf.

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