Romney Forges On, Heedless of GOP Losses

The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 21, 2006; 10:01 PM

BOSTON -- By almost any measure, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney _ a would-be presidential candidate _ should be hanging his head right now.

He was chairman of an association supposed to elect Republican governors, but they lost 20 of 36 races on Election Day, which saw widespread GOP losses.

Then, in an issue critical to the GOP's conservative base, the Massachusetts legislature balked at his request to let state voters decide on an anti-gay marriage amendment, forcing him to petition the state's highest court.

In addition, two of his potential rivals, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, jumped out and announced they were forming presidential exploratory committees.

Yet true to the business training that earned him hundreds of millions of dollars, Romney has a plan and he's sticking to it.

The 59-year-old former venture capitalist, who gained fame resurrecting the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, is proceeding on a methodical course of fundraising, staff-building and outreach.

If successful, Romney would be the first Mormon elected to the White House.

He plans to file papers establishing some sort of presidential committee by mid-December, one top aide said, so he will be ready to start raising money for it on New Year's Day.

Romney himself said as recently as last Friday that should he decide to run for president _ and nearly all his travel and daily events are focused on such a run _ he would announce his decision in early 2007. His term as governor ends Jan. 4.

"I have not seen an individual approach this situation with a greater degree of structure or by compiling such a vast database for making it, both on the personal and political sides," said Tom Rath, a veteran New Hampshire political operative who has advised former Republican candidates such as Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Lamar Alexander and George W. Bush.

The son of George Romney, the former governor of Michigan and a 1968 presidential candidate, Romney has worked assiduously to position himself as the top alternative to McCain.

A University of New Hampshire poll last month had the Arizona Republican in first with 32 percent, Giuliani second with 19 percent and Romney third with 15 percent.

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© 2006 The Associated Press