“My dad is my hero,” son Josh Romney, 36, a Salt Lake City real estate investor, told supporters at a cafe here on a recent morning. “He’s taught me everything I know about being a father, about loving this country and about raising a family, so for me to be able to be on the campaign trail and talk about him and share stories about my dad to other people is a thrill.”
In many ways, they are the ideal surrogates to hold down the fort in New Hampshire, one of Romney’s strongholds, while the GOP presidential candidate focuses his efforts on Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses. They are clean-cut and attractive, conversant about taxes and foreign policy, at ease in the media spotlight and full of darling tales about growing up with their energetic father.
But they have done little to dispel the impression that Romney is a little too polished and aristocratic. Three of the five attended Harvard Business School, like their father, and showed up wearing versions of Romney’s jeans-and-blazer campaign trail uniform. Matt and Craig Romney work in real estate. Ben Romney, who was absent, is completing his medical residency in Utah.
The brothers, who range in age from 31 to 41 and together have 16 children among them, say they have largely stayed away this year at the request of their father, who did not want them to uproot their lives once more, considering their work and parental responsibilities. But they say they will likely step up their activity as the primaries approach, and supporters say that is exactly what they’d like to see.
“It shows what a strong candidate he is that the boys are out here for him while he’s out there in Iowa,” said Pam Skinner, a local Romney activist. “Of course, it helps to have a big family.”
Within the Republican field, Romney’s family is hardly the largest. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Rick Santorum each have seven children, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) famously raised five children and fostered 23.
Nor is the Romney family the most visible. That distinction probably belongs to the self-described “Huntsman girls,” who grabbed attention with their quirky Web videos about Huntsman’s rivals and irreverent tweets. (They lamented last month that tweets directed to the Romney brothers go unreturned.)
But Romney’s sons are a potent force for a candidate who has struggled to connect personally with voters. Along with their mother, Ann, Romney’s wife of 42 years, they provide a stark contrast to rival Newt Gingrich, who has been married three times. And they would help level the playing field in a general election, presenting a wholesome image to rival that of President Obama.