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(Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune) Josh Romney, son of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, pitches a ball to his son, Nash, while at baseball practice for another son at a Holladay LDS stake house ball field. Josh Romney has been hitting the campaign trail for his father but tries to be home in Utah as much as possible for his family.
Josh Romney helps campaign for father Mitt Romney
Politics » He scoffs at stereotype of Mitt as robotic and stiff — he’s “incredibly fun-loving.”

By Thomas Burr

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published May 11 2012 07:33 am • Last Updated Aug 28 2012 11:33 pm

If he isn’t already, Josh Romney’s father will soon be one of the most recognizable people in the world as he clinches the Republican nomination and takes on President Barack Obama this fall.

Josh Romney, however, is hoping to remain somewhat anonymous as he grabs lunch at that "really good Thai place" near his Salt Lake City office or cuts the grass at his home in the suburb of Millcreek.

At a glance

It’s not always a warm welcome

Phoenix » Ron Paul supporters booed Josh Romney off the stage Saturday at the Arizona Republican Party convention, as he sought to solidify support for his father’s nomination.

Hundreds of state GOP members were gathered at Grand Canyon University to elect delegates for the national convention in July in Tampa, Fla., which is expected to select Mitt Romney as the official Republican nominee to challenge President Barack Obama.

“We cannot afford four more years of President Obama,” said Josh Romney, the third of Mitt Romney’s five sons. “We need someone to step in there and turn things around.”

But Josh Romney had to stop repeatedly as people booed and yelled for Paul, who has continued campaigning in the Republican primary. All other challengers have dropped out of the race, and Romney has a commanding lead over Paul.

But Paul supporters are flooding state conventions, recently winning delegate majorities in Nevada and Maine.

Josh Romney tried to appease the crowd, but as he wrapped up, with an admonition to choose the preferred slate of Mitt Romney delegates, the crowd exploded with competing boos and cheers, cutting him short.

Some attendees said they heard Paul supporters chanting outside that Mitt Romney is “the white Obama.”

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"I occasionally get recognized by an old lady or two but that’s about it," Josh Romney jokes when asked if he finds himself in quasi-celebrity status in Utah with his dad, Mitt Romney, on an unhindered path to the GOP nomination.

"For me, life hasn’t changed dramatically, and I hope it never does."

As one of two Romney sons in Utah — a state incredibly fond of the former head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City — Josh Romney is excited about his father’s chances and is prepared to crisscross the United States pitching him as the candidate best equipped to fix America’s problems.

Political campaigns are familiar territory for the Romney family: Josh Romney was 18 when his dad made an unsuccessful run for the Senate in Massachusetts against then-Sen. Ted Kennedy, and he was just out of Harvard Business School when his dad ascended to the Massachusetts Governor’s Office.

It was Josh Romney who held the keys to the Mitt Mobile campaign bus in Iowa in 2008 with the charge to visit all 99 counties and press the vote for his father.

Already this cycle, the younger Romney has hit about 20 states across the country and he recently spoke at the Utah Republican convention to push a slate of national delegates loyal to his father. He was scheduled to speak Saturday at the Arizona GOP convention.

"I have a lot of fun going on the campaign trail and campaigning for my dad," says the 36-year-old. "It can be really rewarding. It can be tough at times. People sometimes can be very critical of your dad right to your face."

Such is the life for family members who can bring a crucial touch of humanity to a politician but in the process may themselves suffer the wrath of opponents and critics. It takes a thicker skin to brush off the barbs thrown at a loved one — a reality that Romney says he’s growing to accept.

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"We know who my dad is. We know who my mom is," says the father of five. "When people criticize them for this or that, we know who they really are, so it doesn’t bother me."

That’s also a skill that could come in handy for the Utah resident if he ever runs for office himself.

Mini-Mitt » Josh Romney has the chiseled jaw and straight-from-the-gym physique that distinguishes the Romney clan. He looks like a younger version of his dad, and he is in a business akin to that of his dad’s past career, albeit on a smaller scale.

While Mitt Rommey co-founed Bain Capital and bought up companies to streamline and repair, Josh Romney scouts the country for distressed apartment complexes in good neighborhoods and rehabs them.

His partner on some of the work is Kem Gardner, a Utah Democrat and close confidant of Mitt Romney who also develops property in Utah.

At Romney Ventures, Josh Romney’s firm located on Salt Lake City’s red-bricked Pierpont Avenue, the uniform on a recent Friday is jeans, sneakers and a Polo shirt.

Two black bags sit near the door, ready to be flown to the Philippines the next day when the younger Romney travels to support Charity Vision, a self-sustainable group that seeks to bring better eyesight to residents of underdeveloped countries by asking for donations from those who can pay for surgery to subsidize those who can’t.

"People will occasionally bring in a bag of rice or a chicken," Romney says, noting that the more invested patients are, the better they’ll take care of their eyes in the future.

Josh Romney’s brother Ben works not too far away from Romney Ventures, finishing up his second year of residency in radiology at the University of Utah Hospital; he’s not one for politics, however, and is likely to be on the campaign trail only when all five sons are deployed.

"He’s a little more under the radar," Josh Romney says of his brother.

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