The life of Mitt Romney — how the Republican Senator went from presidential election loser to making history by voting to convict Trump

Melina Mara/The Washington Post / GettySenator Mitt Romney in January 2020.
  • Mitt Romney, a Harvard graduate, spent 25 years in the private sector earning hundreds of millions of dollars before entering politics.
  • His political career has been tumultuous. He became the Massachusetts Governor, and Utah’s senator, but he also lost two presidential races, in 2008 and 2012.
  • In February 2020, he voted to convict President Donald Trump at the end of the Senate’s impeachment trial. It was the first time a senator had ever voted against a same-party president.
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Mitt Romney has had his fair share of highs and lows.

After 25 years in the private sector, earning hundreds of millions of dollars, he followed in his father’s footsteps and entered politics. He lost the first time, and vowed to never run again unless he thought he had a chance.

He later became the Massachusetts Governor. He also lost two presidential races, in 2008 and 2012.

Over his career, one of his biggest challenges was shifting from local to national politics. In moving to the national stage, he changed his position on subjects like abortion and gun control, which led to some labelling him a “flip-flopper.”

When he lost his second presidential bid in 2012, pundits declared his time in politics over. He, too, worried he would be a “loser for life.” But they were all wrong. He returned to politics in 2018, being elected to the Senate from Utah.

Since his return, he’s been something of a President Donald Trump dissident – especially regarding the president’s behaviour. But it went up a notch in February, when he voted to convict Trump at the end of the Senate’s impeachment trial.

It was the first time a senator had ever voted against a same-party president.

Here’s his life so far, in photos.

Willard Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947, in Detroit, Michigan. He was the fourth child of George and Lenore Romney, and something of a surprise. Lenore took about a year to recover from the birth, and in that time he and George grew close.

Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis / GettyMitt Romney in a family archive photo with his father in 1947

Sources: The New Republic

He was raised in a disciplined house in Bloomfield Hills where chores were done, and summer jobs were worked. His early ambition wasn’t politics, but cars. His father was the head of American Motors, and Romney told The American Spectator, “I hoped to be head of Ford or American Motors or General Motors.”

Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis / GettyMitt Romney in an archive family photo in a Nash automobile, 1957

Sources: The New Republic, New York Magazine, The New Yorker

He went to Cranbrook, an elite private school. He was a “B+ student” according to The New Republic, and “more popular than admired.”


Source: The New Republic

He also wasn’t too athletic. However, one memorable event from his schooling was a track race in his last year. He needed to finish the race for his team to won, but he collapsed near the end. His team mates tried to help him, but he pushed them away, and managed to make it on his own, finishing to a standing ovation.

Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection / GettyLow-angle view of American businessman and politician George W. Romney (1907 – 1995) and his son, future businessman and politician Mitt Romney, as they play golf, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 1958.

Source: The New Republic

Romney was still at school when his father entered politics. George was a moderate Republican. He was also popular for a time. In ninth grade, George was on the cover of Time. He would end up serving as the governor of Michigan, and the secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Richard Nixon.

APGeorge Romney and his son, Mitt, look out over the New York World’s Fair grounds from the heliport in May 1964.

Sources: The New Republic, History News Network

He went to Stanford University in 1965. During the year, he protested to support the drafting for the Vietnam War, showing his conservative politics. He left after a year to go to Paris. He would ultimately graduate valedictorian, from Brigham Young University with a B.A. in English.

APRomney, 14, gives his father George Romney a hug at a Detroit News conference February 10, 1962.

Sources: The Washington Post, The New Republic, Deseret News

In the late 1960s, he spent nearly three years as a Mormon missionary in France, returning in 1969. He’s a sixth generation Mormon. During his time, he read a book called “Think and Grow Rich,” a 1937 book all about how to succeed, focusing on persistence and being organised.

APGeorge Romney, his wife Lenore, daughter Lynn, and son Mitt walk along a street at the World’s Fair en route to the General Motors Pavilion in New York in 1964.

Sources: Deseret News, The New Yorker

Three months later he married Ann Davies, who he had started dating in high school. They have been together ever since.

APDavies and Romney married in a civil ceremony at the brides family home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., March 21,1969.

Source: Deseret News

In 1975, he went to Harvard law and business school. He wanted to study business, but his father wanted him to do law, so he did both. He graduated in the top 5% of his business class, and cum laude in law.

Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis / GettyMitt Romney in an archive family photo with his father George (C) and his brother Scott in 1965, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Sources: The New Republic, New York Magazine, The New Yorker

In 1975, Romney started a career in management consulting and private equity. After several years at a Boston consulting firm, he jumped ship to Bain & Company. Founder Bill Bain said that when Romney started at his firm, “he had the appearance of confidence of a guy who was maybe 10 years older.”

Justine Schiavo/The Boston Globe via GettyMitt Romney at Bain Capital.

Sources: The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate

The firm was known as the KGB of management consulting, according to The New Yorker. No one had business cards, and they spoke in code in public. Romney’s talent at management was noted, and he rose through the ranks, then branched out to create an investment group within Bain. Right away, he was pledged $US12 million.

David L Ryan/The Boston Globe / GettyMitt Romney, Chief Executive of Bain Capital.

Sources: The New Republic, New York Magazine, The New Yorker

Romney’s division was responsible for investing and growing businesses like Domino’s, Brookstone, and Duane Reade. According to New York, Romney was responsible for pioneering the “business takeover,” but Romney was a cautious leader, and many remembered him literately sweating intensely.

Justin Sullivan/GettyMitt Romney wipes sweat from his face in 2012.

Sources: The New Republic, New York Magazine

The Romney family grew as his career flourished. They had five sons: Tagg, Josh, Matt, Craig, and Ben.

Lee Marriner/APRomney, right, and his sons Josh, centre and Craig, left, talk to news reporters Monday, July 7, 2003 in Wolfeboro, N.H.

Source: Business Insider

In 1981, he also had a run-in with the law. He was arrested after launching his boat into a lake, when the licence wasn’t visible enough. He was handcuffed at the time, but a few days later the charges were dropped.

Joe Raedle/GettyMitt Romney on a boat in 2012.

Source: Deseret News

Ann pushed Romney towards politics. In 1993, she reportedly urged him to run for the US senate.

Brian Snyder/ReutersMitt and his wife, Ann.

Sources: Deseret News, The New Yorker

By 1994, he was estimated to be worth several hundred million. He told The New Republic he left business for politics because it was in the “family gene.” He said, “There’s something in the Romney makeup that longs to be able to make a difference, to make a contribution. … There’s almost an obligation to step forward.”

Jim Rogash/APRomney shakes the hand of a commuter while campaigning at North Station in Boston, Nov. 7, 1994.

Sources: The New Republic, The New Yorker

In 1994, he challenged Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy for his seat in Massachusetts. It’s a typically Democratic state, and was going to be tough to win. According to The New Yorker, he positioned himself as a moderate conservative. For instance, he tried to argue he was a stronger gay rights advocate than Kennedy.

Janet Knott/The Boston Globe / GettyMitt Romney is all set to go against Senator Ted Kennedy in 1994.

Sources: The New Republic, Slate, The New Yorker

Romney led the polls for a brief moment, but Kennedy used abortion as a key issue, with a catchy quote, “He’s not pro-choice, he’s not anti-choice, he’s multiple choice.” Romney lost the race.

Jim Davis/The Boston Globe / GettyMitt Romney makes a point to Senator Ted Kennedy during a debate.

Sources: The New Republic, The New Yorker

Although he hadn’t expected to win, the loss struck a nerve. He told his brother that he would never do another campaign unless he thought he could win. He returned to the private sector. All up, he would spend 25 years working in business.

Ira Wyman/Sygma / GettyElectoral Debate between Democrat candidate Edward Moore ‘Ted’ Kennedy and Republican one Mitt Romney.

Source: The New Republic

In 1999, Romney returned to public service to head the struggling Salt Lake Organising Committee for the Olympic Games in Utah. When he took over, he had to deal with a bribery scandal, as well as a massive deficit in funding — about $US387 million.

Douglas C. Pizac/APRomney announces there are 70,000 additional tickets available for purchase for the 2002 Winter Games during a news conference in Salt Lake City.

Source: The New Yorker

He helped turn the organisation around by cutting costs and getting more money from the federal government. He used his success as proof of his leadership abilities while running for political office.

Jed Jacobsohn/GettyInternational Olympic Committee president Dr. Jacques Rogge (left) and Romney speak during the Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in Utah.

Source: The New Yorker

After his stint running the Olympics in Utah, Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts. His campaign was pro-choice.

Chitose Suzuki/APRomney speaks during a news conference in front of the Statehouse in Boston on October 3, 2002.

Source: The New Yorker, Boston Globe

He ultimately defeated his democratic opponent, Shannon O’Brien. Romney served one 4-year term as governor.

ReutersRomney waves to supporters as he celebrates his victory in the Massachusetts Governor’s race.

Sources: Boston Globe, The Atlantic

As governor of a mostly left-leaning state, Romney projected himself as a moderate Republican. During his tenure, in contrast to his Mormon religion, he was against taxing cigarettes, and made alcohol easier to sell.

Gregory Bull/APNew York Gov. George Pataki, left, dons a Boston Red Sox jersey to settle a bet with Romney in 2004.

Sources: Mother Jones, The New Yorker

In 2004, signs of bigger ambitions appeared. Stem cell research was the subject. He had changed long-held views about it, and he went public by calling The New York Times, rather than contacting someone local.

Bill Greene/The Boston Globe / GettyGov. Mitt Romney speaks outside of his office at the State House, concerning stem cell research.

Source: The New Republic

In 2006, Romney signed a health reform bill into law. So-called “Romneycare” required Massachusetts residents to either buy a plan or pay a fine. The law became a source of controversy during the 2012 election amid President Barack Obama’s attempts to implement the Affordable Care Act, which included a similar individual mandate provision.

Brian Snyder/ReutersRomney signs a healthcare reform bill for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at Faneuil Hall in Boston April 12, 2006.

Sources: Boston Globe, CNBC

In 2008, Romney ran for president. Moving from state to national politics, especially from Massachusetts, a liberal state, to presenting himself as a conservative force wasn’t easy for Romney. He was accused of being a “flip-flopper,” on issues like abortion and gun control.

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesMitt Romney.

Source: The New York Times

He lost to John McCain during the Republican primaries. He said he was dropping out in February to unify the Republicans, and to ensure the Iraq war continued. “Because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I have to stand aside for our party and our country,” he said.

Charles Ommanney/GettyRepublican presidential candidate, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Source: The New York Times

Following McCain’s defeat, support for Romney eventually propelled him to the top of the Republican ticket in the 2012 presidential race.

Joe Raedle/GettyRomney holds a baby as he visits Hudson’s Smokehouse on January 18, 2012, in Lexington, South Carolina, during the 2012 campaign.

Source: Reuters

Romney was the first Mormon to represent a major party in his run for president in 2012.

ReutersBrothers Van and Dean Call watch Romney speak during a campaign rally in South Carolina on January 11, 2012.

Source: Constitution Centre

This time around Romney had trouble connecting with voters. Many viewed him as elitist and privileged because of his work in private equity and decades in politics. During the campaign, a video leaked of Romney calling 47% of American voters “entitled” and “dependent upon the government,” further damaging his image.

Mike Segar/ReutersRomney and Obama debate.

Source: Politifact

During his campaign, he kept pushing to the right, focusing on conservative positions. At one point he said, instead of closing Guantanamo Bay down it should be twice as big.

Matthew Cavanaugh/GettyRepublican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, speaks at the podium as he concedes the presidency during Mitt Romney’s campaign election night event at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Centre on November 7, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Source: The New Republic

But the infamous ‘47% comment’ plagued Romney’s campaign. Obama handily won reelection.

Rick Wilking/ReutersMitt Romney and his wife Ann with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R) and his wife Janna acknowledge the audience after Romney delivered his concession speech.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Washington Post

After the election, Romney kept a low profile. He told The New York Times he expected to be a “loser for life.” In 2014, on a Netflix documentary about his presidential campaigns, he explained the hopelessness, when he said, “Mike Dukakis can’t get a job mowing lawns.”

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal / GettyMitt Romney in 2014.

Sources: The New York Times, The New York Times

In 2015, he reemerged in a charity boxing bout with five-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

Jim Urquhart/ReutersRomney fights Evander Holyfield during their boxing match in Salt Lake City, Utah May 15, 2015.

Source: NBC News

As the 2016 presidential election approached, rumours swirled that Romney was considering a third run for higher office. Everything changed when Donald Trump announced his candidacy.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Sources: CNN, The New York Times

During the 2016 campaign, Romney slammed Trump, calling him a “phony,” “fraud,” “con man,” and “fake.”

Jim Urquhart/ReutersIn a speech at the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on March 3, 2016, Romney criticises Trump.

Source: Business Insider

But Romney dialed back his anti-Trump rhetoric after Trump won the election. During the presidential transition, Romney had a private dinner with Trump, fuelling speculation that he might be appointed to a position as secretary of state.

Drew Angerer/GettyPresident-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney dine at Jean Georges restaurant, November 29, 2016 in New York City.

Sources: Business Insider, The New York Times

After Sen. Orin Hatch of Utah announced he would retire at the end of his term, rumours indicated that Romney was considering a run for the US senate seat. He later said he hadn’t been interested in the business world, and his wife wanted him to run. She convinced him it wasn’t a downgrade from running for president.

Julie Malakie/APMitt Romney.

Source: The New York Times

Republicans lined up to support the GOP hopeful. Though the pair have a checkered past, Trump tweeted his support.

AP Photo/Rick BowmerRomney tours Gibson’s Green Acres Dairy in Ogden, Utah on Feb. 16, 2018.

Source: Business Insider

In November 2018, Romney won the race to be Utah’s senator. Before the took position, there was already an expectation he would be a dissenting voice in the Senate, against Trump.

George Frey/GettyMitt Romney and his wife Ann talks to his supporters after he won the Utah Senate seat, at his campaign headquarters at an election night party on November 6, 2018 in Orem, Utah.

Source: The Hill

In January 2019, before he was sworn in, he published an opinion piece in the Washington Post. He wrote that Trump hadn’t been his choice for president and that it was “evident that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

REUTERS/Steve MarcusFormer Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is endorsed by Donald Trump at the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada February 2, 2012.

Source: Washington Post

As the year continued, he had a new role in politics, according to The New York Times, “a hybrid role of sober statesman and maverick in a party struggling to reconcile the oft-irreconcilable impulses of its leader.” Romney criticised the president for his behaviour more than his policies.

Julie Malakie/APMassachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney welcomes attendees to a lunch meeting of the Republican Governors Association Tuesday, June 27, 2006, in Boston.

Sources: The New York Times, Washington Post

In October, Slate discovered he had a secret Twitter account, called “Pierre Delecto.”

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesMitt Romney.

Source: Slate

Towards the end of 2019, as Trump’s impeachment approached, the pressure rose, and Romney asked himself what his father would do.

Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx / APMitt Romney.

Source: The New York Times

In February 2020, Romney showed he wasn’t afraid to break ranks with the party. He was one of two Republicans to vote for the Senate to bring in witnesses. The vote was defeated by his party.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post / GettySenator Mitt Romney in January 2020.

Source: Business Insider

He made history later that week when he voted to convict President Donald Trump. He was instantly criticised for his position. But as he told his former strategist Stuart Stevens, “The worst thing that could happen to anyone in politics has already happened to me. I lost the presidency.”

Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call / GettySen. Mitt Romney departs from the Capitol after the Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020.

Sources: The New York Times, Washington Post

Romney is now alone in the Republican Party. It’s hard to say how long the effects of his vote will last. But he’s been in politics long enough to know what he was getting into.

Patrick Semansky / APSen. Mitt Romney on February 4, 2020.

Source: Washington Post

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