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Romney Brothers Dish on Dad

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By Jose Antonio Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 9, 2007

BOSTON -- Tagg Romney, 37, loves the Sox and has a thing for Billy Joel. Matt Romney, 35, always tunes in to "Saturday Night Live," and Josh Romney, 31, likes to surf and water-ski. Ben Romney, 29, hesitates to call his dog, Kingsley, a half yorkie and half poodle, "a yorkie-poo." And Craig Romney, 26, a Tom Brady look-alike, has 337 friends on MySpace and cites his dad, along with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as his heroes.

Wholesome does not really begin to describe the five adult children of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who for the past few weeks have been sharing such details on Five Brothers, their blog and the most popular feature on the former Massachusetts governor's campaign Web site. The blog is yet another medium to convey the image of dedicated family man that is an essential part of Romney's identity as a candidate. Earlier this week, while most of his opponents introduced themselves during the Republican presidential debate by highlighting their résumés, Romney started with, "I'm a husband, a father, a grandfather . . . ."

One way to measure a blog's popularity is its unpopularity, and Five Brothers has gotten enough attention to inspire parody. A blogger mocking the brothers writes: "Tagg is 37 . . . likes . . . basketball . . . horses, travel . . . trust funds . . .."

Such carping does not seem to faze the Romneys. "It's a cynical world we live in, and my brothers are just being ourselves," says Tagg, sitting at campaign headquarters at this city's North End, where he keeps an office. Adds Matt: "Our goal is for people to get to know our dad a little more differently than they might in a 30-second TV spot. To get to know him through his family. So everyone's blogging."

The image of the Romneys as the perfectly polished all-American family has been a theme since Mitt Romney began his career in politics. During Romney's unsuccessful 1994 Senate run, his wife, Ann, known as the family's CFO (chief family officer), told the Boston Globe that she has never had a serious argument with her husband.

The comparison with other candidates is implied, and occasionally has become explicit. Asked earlier this year what distinguishes her husband from the rest of the field, his wife of 38 years replied, "He's had only one wife," a stinger that seemed to be directed at the thrice-married, twice-divorced Rudolph W. Giuliani (R), who is estranged from his two children.

There is at least some danger that if the family seems too perfect, the approach could backfire.

"Romney's family is a central part of his identity, and it's a very effective counterpunch to some of the other high-profile candidates who've had, and are having, familial woes," says Gil Troy, historian of first couples and author of "Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons." "Yet you also have to think that we're not in the age of 'The Brady Bunch' anymore. We're in the age of 'The Simpsons.' "

"Once upon a time, when you say 'family,' you think 'all American.' Now when you say 'family,' you think 'dysfunctional.' "

The presidential campaign blog dates back to March 15, 2003, the day former Vermont governor Howard Dean (D) launched Blog for America. Most of the leading candidates maintain blogs, the same way they post YouTube videos and update their MySpace profiles. But often the candidates use their blogs in a limited way, recycling press releases, sticking to talking points and failing to convey a sense of personality. Like the Romney brothers, the former senator John Edwards's (D-N.C.) family is an exception to this rule, but wife Elizabeth has not posted an entry since mid-April and daughter Cate, a first-year law student, since late December. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) keeps a very busy blog, as does Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but their bloggers are paid staffers.

And while Giuliani asks supporters to embed widgets, the equivalent of traditional campaign buttons, on their blogs, he does not have a blog, and his children, Andrew and Caroline, are not mentioned in the former New York mayor's official bio on his Web site.

Five Brothers was launched on April 12, and the Romneys post entries, load photos and videos several times a week. The blog is edited by the campaign communications staff, and comments and questions are allowed, though answers are not guaranteed.


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