This is the latest installment in a series of reading guides on 2012 presidential candidates. Here are the other guides.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has long been considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination. The relatively middle-of-the-road, onetime presidential candidate has raised far more money than his competitors. Romney has also generated concern among some in the GOP that he is an "uninspired choice."
Romney is perhaps best known for implementing "RomneyCare," a 2006 health-care law mandating that all Massachusetts residents have health insurance. FactCheck.org has prepared a primer on the health-care law, looking into claims that it has bankrupted the state (it hasn't) and how many Bay Staters actually have health care (a bit over 98 percent).
If you really want to get a sense of what Romney's about, the Boston Globe published a seven-part profile in 2007, charting his development and years as governor. The section on Romney's tenure as the head of the 2002 Olympic planning committee is actually quite interesting and shows how Romney "tolerated little dissent." (Long-standing tension between Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry actually dates back to the Olympics: Perry, who "proudly wears an Eagle Scout pin on his lapel," was miffed Romney didn't allow Boy Scouts to be official volunteers during the games.)
Romney began his career in business, eventually becoming the CEO of Bain and Co., a private equity firm. A few years later, Romney ran for Senate in 1994 against Ted Kennedy and lost. After a brief sojourn helping to organize the Winter Olympics, Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts, serving from 2002 to 2006.
If elected, Romney would be America's first Mormon president. The Pew Research Center has a selection of recommended reading on Romney's faith. In 2006, Romney delivered a speech on the role of religion in America and how he believes his faith would inform his presidency if he were elected. A 2007 New York Times article describes Romney's efforts to appeal to evangelicals.
On the trail, Romney has emphasized his record of creating jobs. But the Los Angeles Times reports that when Romney was governor, Massachusetts had one of the lowest job-creation rates in the country. Bloomberg News also notes that while Bain grew with Romney as CEO, it also cut plenty of jobs.
As governor, Romney took control of the Big Dig, a huge tunnel and highway project in Boston that was already mired in scandal over misspent funds and unsafe design. The Washington Post details how his claims that he would turn the project around never materialized, leaving Boston residents wondering: "If he can't handle [turnpike authority director] Matt Amorello, how is he going to handle Korea or Iran?"
Unlike GOP presidential hopefuls Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, Romney was in favor of the stimulus.
Romney has also been criticized for having once held moderate positions on abortion, gun control and gay rights. He describes himself as pro-life, though he said during his 1994 Senate run that "abortion should be safe and legal in this country."
Romney opposed the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts and recently signed a pledge that he will defend the Defense of Marriage Act if elected president.
The American Spectator deemed him a "Rockefeller Republican," and it didn't mean that as a compliment. Romney has taken a lot of heat from conservatives for criticizing Obama's health-care law, while defending the Massachusetts health-care legislation he introduced that served as a model for Obama's bill.
Following the money:
The New York Times' ultra-handy tool for comparing the candidates shows that as of early summer Romney's fundraising was about four-times that of any other Republican. Romney's fundraising paled in comparison to that of another possible competitor, President Obama. (The numbers are a few months old since candidates are only required to file quarterly.)
Two campaign-finance watchdog groups called for a Federal Election Commission inquiry after a Romney Super PAC received a mysterious $1 million donation from a company that dissolved shortly afterward. After calls for an investigation, former Bain Capital executive Edward Conard identified himself as the donor. The Boston Globe has a piece summing up the concerns the episode raises. Romney says that the secrecy of the donation is no longer an issue now that Conard has identified himself.