Mitt cherished his father’s example and endeavored to follow it. George became more than just a mentor to his youngest son. He was a pathfinder, showing the way of their Mormon faith through the thickets of politics and business, home life, and character. Through his achievements and mistakes, George had bestowed many lessons, and Mitt soaked them up. “His whole life,” said John Wright, a close family friend, “was following a pattern which had been laid out by his dad.”
Romney argues that the government activism to combat inequality Obama advocates amounts to government-enforced “equal outcomes,” or worse, the politics of “envy” and “class warfare.” Romney insists that rolling back government and unshackling the private sector is the best way to combat inequality, by creating opportunity, shared prosperity and social mobility. Romney has cited himself as proof of what the private sector can accomplish along these lines, if only we’ll let it. He has directly equated his own success with the benefits that “free enterprise” can shower on anyone.
At the leveraged buyout firm Bain Capital, he developed a reputation as someone who could turn failing companies into profitable enterprises – a skill that helped him amass his fortune, but has also brought questions about job cuts and investments that fared poorly.
Even Romney’s own supporters will argue that his biography — his business success — is central to his overall case about the virtues of free market capitalism.
But try as he might to distance himself, Mr. Romney cannot escape Mr. Kennedy’s influence. On the campaign trail, he uses the senator, who died in 2009, as a foil, denouncing Mr. Kennedy’s “liberal welfare state” policies and boasting of how Mr. Kennedy “had to take out a mortgage on his house to make sure he could defeat me.” He has said losing to Mr. Kennedy was “the best thing” that could have happened to him, “because it put me back in the private sector.”
But it was their work on health care, a lifelong passion for Mr. Kennedy, that may have had the most enduring impact on Mr. Romney. The legislation gave him national standing to run for president in 2008, only to emerge as a political liability in the current campaign in a way that neither man could have foreseen.
"I don't try and distance myself in any way, shape or form from my faith, but my church doesn't dictate to me or anyone what political policies we should pursue," Romney said during his first run for the White House. "There has never been a time in my four years as governor, that anyone from my church called me or contacted me and asked me to take a position on an issue."
Mr. Romney’s frequently tributes American exceptionalism. “I refuse to believe that America is just another place on the map with a flag,” he said in announcing his bid for the presidency last June. Every presidential candidate highlights patriotism, but Mr. Romney’s is backed by the Mormon belief that the United States was chosen by God to play a special role in history, its Constitution divinely inspired. “He is an unabashed, unapologetic believer that America is the Promised Land,” said Douglas D. Anderson, dean of the business school at Utah State University and a friend, and that leading it is “an obligation and responsibility to God.”
The Romneys’ Mormon faith, as they began building a life together, formed a deep foundation. It lay under nearly everything—their acts of charity, their marriage, their parenting, their social lives, even their weekly schedules.
But being a Latter-day Saint is “at the center of who he really is, if you scrape everything else off,” said Randy Sorensen, who worshiped with Mr. Romney in church.