POLITICS SEPTEMBER 2, 2008
With Mitt Romney slated to speak at the Republican convention tonight, the question on (at least some) people’s minds is what a certain Romney quintet has been doing since Mitt’s White House hopes dimmed.
During the race for the Republican presidential nomination, you’ll remember, Romney’s five sons--by descending age: Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig--livened up the campaign trail with their gee-whiz antics, fraternal banter, and out-of-this-world bone structure. Their rise to fame began in early 2007, when they launched a blog, Five Brothers, on their dad’s campaign website. Posts included family photos, reports from the stump, and speculations about which brother would win a farting contest. That summer, the brothers toured Iowa in a Winnebago called the Mitt Mobile. On the road, they told FOX News queen Greta Van Susteren how exciting it was to see the world’s largest truck stop and eat fruit pie in America’s heartland. Later, just before the Michigan primary, Matt engineered a prank call to his dad using an online Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, causing a charmed CNN commentator to call the brothers, “those pesky Romney boys.”
Mindy Finn, director of e-strategy for Romney’s campaign, said the brothers wanted to introduce voters to the real Mitt: the warm family man, as American as the next guy. “Every summer when they get together for family vacation, they have a mini family Olympics,” Finn said. “Poking fun at each other on the blog and trying to one up each other made it fun and gave a real depiction of what they’re like when their family is together.”
There were bad moments, of course. Critics pounced on Romney for saying his sons, none of whom have military backgrounds, were serving their country by campaigning for him. Many people also poked fun at the brothers’ bubble-gum image.
Still, Finn said the brothers took the jabs in stride. “You see a lot of things happening with famous people, other children of politicians. They are arrested for drunk driving or drugs,” Finn said. “[The brothers] felt it was not a bad thing to be made fun of for being squeaky clean.”
But, like most boy-group sensations that are at once adored and jibed, the Romneys were a flash in the pan. Since their dad’s campaign folded in February, the brothers have closed their blog, pursued solo careers, and cranked out more Romney spawn.
Following in his dad’s footsteps, Tagg, 38, the self-described “classic Type A” of the group, has started a new private equity firm, Boston-based Solamere Capital. His partner is Spencer Zwick, Mitt’s former national finance director, who is sometimes referred to as Romney’s “sixth son.” In a May blog post, Mitt told supporters of Free and Strong America, his new PAC, that Tagg and family live just down the street. Mitt and his wife Ann “drop in on them like Frank and Marie on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond.’” Father and son also work in close proximity: Solamere Capital and Free and Strong America are in the same office complex.
Prankster Matt, 36, who lives in California with his wife Laurie and works in real estate, recently welcomed his fourth child and fueled speculation that John McCain might choose Romney as his running mate when he appeared at a San Diego campaign event. McCain told the crowd that Matt and his brothers’ Iowa tour was “above and beyond the call of duty.”
Josh, 33, the alleged Ashton Kutcher look-alike of the group, said in February that he might run for a Congressional seat in Utah. “I’m pretty young, but I’ve had good experience on the campaign trail,” he told The Deseret Morning News. But, Mitt has said on his blog that Josh is sticking to the private sector.
Ben, 30, who defies the brothers’ clean-cut image when he sports a beard, is a medical student at Tufts and, according to Mitt’s blog, is expecting his first child with wife Ande.
Craig, the baby at 27, lives in New York, works in advertising, and welcomed his second child with wife Mary this summer.
A Five Brothers reunion tour seems unlikely anytime soon; with Romney squarely out of the 2008 race, the Mitt Mobile is parked. And yet, it’s impossible not to consider the second-generation potential. Adding to an already substantial brood, Mitt is the proud grandfather of four new little ones this year. (As he commented on his blog, “What a pace!”) If a dad or uncle of these kiddos decides to run for office, there could be a new, even larger Romney crew ready to take up his cause. Consider this fair warning of the wholesome hijinks to come.
Seyward Darby is a reporter-researcher at The New Republic.
By Seyward Darby