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US 2012
Profile: Mitt Romney
Republican US presidential candidate faces tough battle to convince some in his party of his conservative credentials.
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2012 00:35
Republicans hope the choice of Ryan, right, as Romney's running mate will help his conservative credentials [Reuters]

Willard Mitt Romney, the US Republican Party's presidential candidate, is well-known for his success in the business world. His track record in politics, however, is rather more uneven.

Following his successful nomination as the party's candidate at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, Romney is hoping the political winds will once again be at his back.

He has often accused President Barack Obama of worsening the country's economic woes, and portrays his own strongest asset as his knowledge of the economy.

Romney says he helped to create thousands of jobs during his time at Bain Capital, a private equity firm he co-founded, and that this experience will help him create jobs as president amid a faltering economy.

With the economy taking centre stage in this year's election, it is a claim that has come under intense scrutiny.

Future force

It could be said that Romney's road to Tampa actually began in Michigan decades ago.

"His interest in politics actually began when he was a youth, growing up with his father as the governor of Michigan, he was involved in his mother's senatorial campaigns," explained Roger Porter, a former White House adviser to George W Bush and a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School.

Romney, a practicing Mormon, was born on March 12, 1947 and grew up in an affluent suburb of Detroit, Michigan.

After graduating from the prestigious Cranbrook School, he worked as a Mormon missionary in France for two and a half years before attending Brigham Young University and then Harvard Business School. 

Romney and his wife Ann have five sons [AFP]

After more than 20 years as a business executive, Romney decided to try his hand at politics in 1994. 

He took on Democratic titan Ted Kennedy for his Massachusetts Senate seat and lost. But his strong showing in that race, particularly as a Republican in a liberal-leaning state like Massachusetts, gave the public an indication that Romney might be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

His next high-profile role was running the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. The lead-up to the Games had been plagued by scandals and underfunding, and Romney has said his management helped to turn the Olympics into a success.

That same year Romney launched another political bid, and won: this time becoming governor of Massachusetts.

Romney entered office as a fiscal conservative but a social moderate, supporting abortion and gay rights and passing a universal healthcare coverage plan.

By the time he left office in 2007, he had reversed many of those positions and started to project a more conservative profile, eyeing a future on the national stage. 

He was given that chance in 2008. After strong finishes in a handful of early primaries and caucuses, however, Romney lost the Republican Party's presidential nomination to Arizona Senator John McCain.

Following encouragement from his wife, Ann, with whom he has five sons, he went after the prize again in 2012, and this time he prevailed.

Criticism

Romney has spent much of the past few months on the defensive. 

In-depth coverage of the US presidential election

His business record has been criticised by rivals in both parties who say Bain Capital profited by gutting companies and outsourcing American jobs overseas.

Romney's personal finances have also come under scrutiny from Democrats, who demand he release several years' worth of his tax returns.

He is still struggling to win over hardcore conservatives sceptical about his record, and those in the middle class who are undecided and wary about his wealth.

Many conservatives do not consider Romney to be sufficiently right-wing, due to some of his previous moderate positions.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney spearheaded legislation that mandates the purchase of health insurance - a reform remarkably similar to Obama's signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, though at state level.

When running for the Senate in 1994, Romney told a local gay and lesbian newspaper that he would be better on gay rights than Kennedy, his liberal opponent.

Ryan choice

Romney's first overseas trip as the Republican presidential candidate in late July, which was supposed to help burnish his foreign policy credentials, also drew criticism. 

He enraged the British opinion by doubting their readiness for the Olympics.

Days later, he infuriated Palestinians while visiting Israel when he asserted at a fundraiser that Israel has prospered more than the Palestinians in part because of a superior "culture". 

The trip gave the Obama campaign and Romney critics more fuel for attacks on the former governor.

Republican insiders, however, say the party is as united as ever and is ready to make this election a referendum on what they describe as Obama's failing agenda.

Unemployment in the US remains high, at more than eight per cent, and GDP growth continues to be anemic.

Many of Romney's supporters believe his choice of Wisconsin congressman and staunch fiscal conservative Paul Ryan as his running mate will build enthusiasm for the ticket, and help Romney regain the offensive against Obama and his economic policies as the race moves from Tampa to the November finale. 

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Source:
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