Why Is Mitt Romney Running on His Biography?

Conservatives have complained for months that Mitt Romney's campaign message is "vote for me because of who I am."

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Conservatives have complained for months that Mitt Romney's campaign message is "vote for me because of who I am." It's annoying because he's not making the case for conservative public policy, and because they think President Obama was elected to office on the basis of his own biography, and, well, Republicans are apparently above all that. On July 4, The Wall Street Journal's editorial board complained that Romney is running on his biography, and that "candidates who live by biography typically lose by it. See President John Kerry." The Journal complained about this strategy back in January, too, as did The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes, who wrote, "As things stand, [Romney's] overriding issue is himself. He’ll revive the economy. Why? Because he says he will." The Journal blames Romney's "insular" staff. But it's likely that running on his biography is Romney's own idea.

Do you ever get the sense that Mitt Romney's been told all his life that he was destined to be president? We actually have evidence this is the case: When he was 7 years old, his nanny predicted he would be president someday, The Boston Herald reported in August 6, 1994. When Romney began working for Bain, multiple partners told founder Bill Bain, "This guy is going to be president of the United States someday," Michael Kranish and Scott Helman wrote in The Real Romney (excerpted in Vanity Fair in February). Sure, lots of parents say the exact same thing about their kid, but Romney was born into a unique position -- the handsome and wealthy son of a popular politician and one-time presidential candidate -- that made that kind of ambition more realistic. And there's evidence Romney believed it.

At just 23, when his mom was running for Senate, Romney told The Saginaw News, "I might consider politics. But I'd want to be independent financially. I just wouldn't want to have to feed my family from money made as a politician." That might have been just a meaningless youthful comment if he hadn't followed that exact strategy, and then mentioned it 42 years later in a Republican debate in January. "I happened to see my dad run for governor when he was 54 years old... He had good advice to me. He said never get involved in politics if you have to win election to pay a mortgage." (Romney happily noted that might not have been true for his 1994 Senate opponent, Ted Kennedy, adding, "I was happy that he had to take a mortgage out on his house to ultimately defeat me.")

The Journal says Romney's campaign staff is "slowly squandering an historic opportunity" to defeat an incumbent president, and that if Obama's attacks go unanswered, Romney's staff "ought to be fired for malpractice."  It seems unfair to blame the staff and not the candidate himself for thinking that because he's presidential, he should be president.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.