Romney huddles with family at Utah retreat
WASHINGTON - Days away from launching the first leg of his presidential bid, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is skiing, dining and huddling with family members and associates in Utah before jetting back to Boston on Sunday.
"We've already begun a series of, if you will, fireside chats with my family - my five daughters-in-law, my five sons, and Ann and I have a spent a lot of time talking about the future of our country," Romney told Human Events, a conservative weekly, in an interview published Thursday on the publication's Web site.
"There are sort of two piles of considerations. There are the personal considerations and there are the national considerations. And frankly, it's the national considerations and the needs of our country and the people of our nation and what I might be able to do to help that have the biggest influence."
On Wednesday night, Romney addressed a group of about 30-40 potential donors at the Salt Lake Country Club, according to a Utah business executive who attended. The event was sponsored by Utah philanthropist Spencer Eccles.
Romney is expected to file papers to form a presidential exploration committee with the Federal Election Commission in the first few days of January. On Jan. 8, Romney will be hosting a pep rally of sorts in Massachusetts with some of his top supporters and fundraisers.
But for now, Romney, the former head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, is taking time away from the public spotlight to spend time with his family at his Deer Valley home.
Though he has yet to say he's running, Romney has made every indication he's in, says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Taking time with the family before taking the plunge into a presidential bid is necessary, he says, because the odds are against a candidate from day one and will require a lot of sacrifice.
"He's got to decide whether he's willing to take this enormous gamble," Sabato says. "This is like playing the multi-state lottery: there's one winner and a lot of losers. But it's the old Publisher's Clearinghouse of politics, you can't win if you don't enter."
Romney already has set himself up for a White House bid, making multiple visits to states that hold early primaries or a caucus, spreading donations around to key Republicans and signing on an army of staffers and consultants.
Several big name politicians already have announced their intentions, including Democrat and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards, who said Thursday he was seeking the Democratic nomination. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are also expected to jump into the race.
On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain of Arizona has set up a presidential exploration committee, as well as former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.
It's unclear when Romney will formally announce his intentions.
* PEGGY FLETCHER STACK contributed to this story.