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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and wife Ann wave to the crowd at The Gdansk Old Town Hall, in Gdansk, Poland, Monday, July 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Romney’s road to nomination began with father’s aspiration

Politics » A path marked by missteps and distractions has honed a candidate that is focused on a theme: the economy.

First Published Aug 24 2012 02:01 pm • Last Updated Nov 30 2012 11:33 pm

Washington » Four years ago, Mitt Romney arrived in New Hampshire, his usually perfectly coiffed hair slightly disheveled and his mood a bit depressed after coming in second in the Iowa caucuses.

"Well, we won the silver," Romney told supporters, who, despite their zeal, couldn’t wrestle up enough votes to win the Granite State’s primary days later.

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Always the optimist, Romney pressed on, noting that like in the Olympics, when you don’t win your first time around, "You come back and win the gold."

This week Romney will take the stage in Tampa, Fla., before thousands of enthusiastic delegates and lay claim to the GOP’s top prize: the party’s nomination for the presidency.

It’s the coveted spot that Romney has fought for, arguably, for more than six years, and one that his father sought and failed to obtain more than four decades ago.

Friends and advisers to the presidential candidate say that his late father’s advice after his own disappointing loss still helps Romney bounce back after faltering and keeps him pushing forward.

Family code » In 1966, after George Romney won a second term as Michigan governor in a landslide, boosters started cheering him on for higher ambitions.

"Romney’s great — in sixty-eight," they chanted, hinting at a 1968 presidential run, according to the book George Romney, Mormon in Politics by Clark Mollenhoff.

A Gallup poll at the time showed Romney within striking distance of President Lyndon Johnson (who hadn’t yet announced he would not seek a second term), and a Harris poll later gave him a 10-point advantage over the Democratic incumbent.

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Then, the trouble started. The conservative wing of the party raised questions about Romney’s more liberal Republican leanings, and Democrats piled on, according to the biography.

Ultimately, it was Romney’s own comment — and the hype it received — that brought his White House hopes to an end. In an interview with a Detroit radio station, the host pressed Romney on his apparent inconsistency on Vietnam.

"When I came back from Vietnam [for a fact-finding trip], I had just the greatest brainwashing anybody can get," Romney said, uttering the word that would doom his chance at the presidency.

At the time, Mitt Romney was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France and heard about his father’s loss in a letter.

"Your mother and I are not personally distressed. As a matter of fact, we are relieved," George Romney wrote on the last page, according to Time magazine, which dug up the letter a few years ago.

"We went into this not because we aspired to the office, but simply because we felt that under the circumstances we would not feel right if we did not offer our service. As I have said on many occasions, I aspired, and though I achieved not, I am satisfied."

Mitt Romney noted the latter phrase was a favorite of his mother, Lenore Romney, and one that she used when she lost her own bid for a Senate seat from Michigan in 1970. But it was another famous quote by an ancient Jewish leader that Lenore Romney often cited that rang out for her son.

"If not me, who? If not now, when? If not here, where?" Romney quotes his mother as saying in his own book, Turnaround.

It was Mitt Romney’s turn in 1994 when he took on a dynasty, Sen. Edward Kennedy in his home state of Massachusetts. Romney lost but continued on in the business world until another opportunity opened: The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Romney is credited with turning those Games from scandal to success and parlaying that into the Massachusetts governorship.

Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Romney’s campaign, says the candidate often draws on his family’s experiences in politics — successful and not — and that Romney himself has followed his father’s path from business to public service.

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