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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Romney Revealed: Family, Faith and the Road to Power

Aired August 27, 2012 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


GLORIA BORGER, HOST: A man born to wealth, privilege and politics.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Mitt Romney and I'm running for president of the United States.

TAGGART ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S SON: I think my dad has always felt like he wanted to be true to his dad's name and legacy.

BORGER: A savvy businessman who made a fortune at Bain Capital and turned around the 2002 Winter Olympics.

JEFFREY RENNART, BUSINESS PARTNER: He has two speeds, asleep or wide awake and fixing things.

M. ROMNEY: Good to see you.

RENNART: He is a Mr. Fix-it.

BORGER: A man driven by faith in himself, his family and his Mormon religion.

M. ROMNEY: You try your very best to know what god might say and, of course, you look to get direction from the church as well.

BORGER: A warm caring man.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: He was going to do anything he could to just say, I'm here, just stay right there. And we'll be OK.

BORGER: Or a cold, calculating politician.

SCOTT HELMAN, CO-AUTHOR, THE REAL ROMNEY: He's made decisions knowing that they could resurface 30 years hence under the glare of a political campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney isn't pro-choice, not anti-choice, he's multiple choice.

BORGER: A political opportunist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He changes position on a broad range of issues for a simple reason. He wanted to run for president of the United States.

BORGER: Or true believer.

A. ROMNEY: I know his core, honesty, integrity, decency, intelligence, conviction to doing the right thing.

M. ROMNEY: We're going to bring back America. Thank you so much.

BORGER: Now, ROMNEY REVEALED: FAMILY, FAITH, AND THE ROAD TO POWER.

Ann and Mitt Romney's summer home sits on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. A private, large and lived-in family retreat for the entire clan. All 28 of them.

A. ROMNEY: They all just left. A lot of them left last night. I ran through 12 loads this morning. A lot of towels, a lot of sheets. But it's a joyous thing. It's a joyous thing to have them all here.

BORGER: Even in the midst of a presidential campaign.

Tell me a little bit about the Mitt Romney that's here at the lake.

A. ROMNEY: Nonstop. Nonstop. He is going every minute. He's loving it. He pops out of bed the first thing in this morning and he's just going.

BORGER: Here inside the Lake House, Romney is more camp counselor than candidate.

M. ROMNEY: Fun loving, warm, spontaneous, get him out of the public eye, put him in here, he is as loose and funny and spontaneous as you'd ever want to see and just so much fun to be with.

BORGER: So what happens when you get in the public eye?

A. ROMNEY: You know, you have to just be more circumspect, you have to be more careful with your words. You know, you just have to be very, very careful. And it's unfortunate, I think, that even, you know, people, I think, probably only think of Mitt maybe through his business lens. And for me, you know, that is just 1 percent of who he is.

BORGER: And who is he really? First and foremost, a Romney.

The Romney name has been in the public eye for the last half century, a family of great wealth and business achievement. Political success as well as failures. Mitt was the fourth and last child for George and Lenore Romney, born March 12th, 1947. Some recall him as the favorite.

George wrote to the family in September, 1956, "Mitt is growing like a weed. He's full of ideas and energy as ever."

Tom McCaffrey grew up with Romney.

TOM MCCAFFREY, FRIEND: Mitt as a child was extremely energetic. The kind of kid that could never sit down. His mind was going 100 miles an hour.

PHILLIP MAXWELL, FORMER NEIGHBOR: George was much the same way. You know, he's just -- he's got that energy. BORGER: Phillip Maxwell lived down the street from the Romneys in a wealthy Detroit suburb.

MAXWELL: George would go out on the golf course. And he had fluorescent golf balls and he would hit the ball and he would run after the ball jogging, hit the ball again, and that was his exercise.

BORGER: Young Mitt not only had his father's energy --

MICHAEL KRANISH, CO-AUTHOR,, THE REAL ROMNEY: There seems to be a special bond between George and Mitt.

BORGER: Michael Kranish and Scott Helman co-wrote the book, "The Real Mitt Romney."

KRANISH: Mitt Romney idolized his father in the way that you can drawn out of the way his he's run his life, following the same footsteps of the career.

BORGER: George Romney was a CEO who saved American Motors by betting on smaller cars. It gave his son a first look at business.

MAXWELL: George was a turnaround artist at American Motors taking a company that had lost focus for whatever reason and fixing it.

BORGER: And once George made his mark in the auto world he switched gears, to politics. He was the Republican governor of Michigan for three terms and young Mitt was a fixture on the campaign trail, schooled early in issues, strategies and the possibility of losing.

M. ROMNEY: And Dad's pollster said, George, you can't possibly win. And, you know, I was a kid in high school. And I thought, oh, no, you know, we're going to lose, I'm going to be embarrassed at school. These little things that a kid thinks. And my dad said -- it was clear, he said, I'm not in this because I worry about winning or losing, I'm here to make a difference. He's not defined by elections. He's been defined as a man of character throughout his life.

BORGER: And then there was Mitt's mother, Lenore.

M. ROMNEY: My mom had a softer side. She used to read to me when I was a boy and gave me a love of culture and literature.

BORGER: Once a screen actress, Lenore met George in 1924. Their courtship became an often-told part of the family story.

T. ROMNEY: He left what he was doing and traveled west to Hollywood and try to convince her to marry him opposed to going into the movie business. And he just -- he knew what he wanted and was not going to stop until he got it.

BORGER: Mitt's courtship of Ann was in its own way no less intense. They were just teenagers at neighboring elite private schools in Detroit. It was Mitt's senior year when he spotted the 16-year-old Ann Davies at a dance.

A. ROMNEY: I did fall madly in love with him very quickly actually. But I was very aloof, very cool.

M. ROMNEY: She was very smart. She set the hook deep. And I'd call and say, let's get together, she was too busy. She went on with a date with someone else while I was pursuing her. Made me just crazy.

A. ROMNEY: He was so much fun. Captivating. It was just fun, fun, fun to be with him.

BORGER: There are lots of stories of good natured practical jokes.

MAXWELL: But at Cranbrook he was kind of swimming around trying to find his place. One of the consequences was that he would get involved in these pranks, which were really attention-getting devices.

BORGER: But Maxwell remembers one incident he says crossed the line. A younger classmate returned from break with long bleached blond hair and a group of guys, including Romney, confronted him.

MAXWELL: He was taken down and Mitt had scissors and he cut his hair. It was an ugly scene and it was a long time ago. But I'll never forget it because of the look on this boy's face. He was absolutely terrified when they took him down.

BORGER: Others, as you know, who went to Cranbrook with you remember some different stories that they say were over-the-top and maybe even cruel to some students. Do you remember it that way?

M. ROMNEY: No, I don't. And I know that comes up during the campaign season but it's the first time I've heard that. I'm sure --

BORGER: The haircutting story.

M. ROMNEY: That's -- I think that's the only story I've heard of that nature. But, you know, the pranks that we pulled were designed to be funny and to have fun. And I can imagine that now and then things I did in high school are not things I'd want to become part of a presidential campaign.

BORGER: That was decades ago. One incident when Romney was a teenager without focus and direction, something he would find later in a very surprising place.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: It was fall, 1965. Stanford University. The counter culture movement was growing. A different world for freshman Mitt Romney, straight from a Michigan boarding school and his conservative roots.

HELMAN: He has this exposure, I think, to all these new ideas, all these new people, these new experiences.

BORGER: But all Romney could think about at first was Ann, back in Michigan.

Mark Marcus was Romney's roommate. MARK MARCUS, FORMER ROOMMATE: A lot of guys have come to college and they had high school girlfriends. But you could tell from Mitt it was different. He could not stop talking about Ann.

M. ROMNEY: We were so much in love. I went off to college and I got a job there to earn a little money so I could pay for an airplane ticket to go home and see her. I didn't tell my parents.

BORGER: This was at Stanford.

M. ROMNEY: This is while I was at Stanford. And we didn't tell my parents about this. I --

BORGER: So you snuck home?

M. ROMNEY: We snuck home. I flew home, snuck home, and would take her on a date. Now her parents knew about it. They were on the -- on the inside. But my parents, I knew they'd never go along with this so we didn't tell them.

BORGER: Did they catch you?

M. ROMNEY: Oh, no. They never caught us.

BORGER: But as the year wore on, the politics on campus became inescapable.

KRANISH: He's very affected by this world in which he sees and an anti-establishment strain growing.

BORGER: As the protest at Stanford grew, Romney stood with the establishment and for the war.

KRANISH: His father at that time was strongly for the Vietnam War. And he was finding his political footing, really, the first time we see Mitt Romney emerge as his own man in a political sense is when he does lead this protest against the anti-war protesters on the campus of Stanford. He's standing up with a sign saying, "Speak out, don't sit in."

BORGER: But Romney never went to Vietnam himself, exempt as a student and with a high draft lottery number.

KRANISH: He's protesting the anti-war protesters but he does not volunteer to go to serve in Vietnam. He would have been eligible to serve, certainly.

BORGER: At the end of his freshman year, Romney would be called to serve, not his country but his faith. As a Mormon missionary in France. It was a tradition he considered breaking.

KRANISH: He was concerned, according to his friends, that he might lose Ann. And so he talked to Ann about this and she told him, you know, if you don't go, you'll always regret it. And I'll be here.

A. ROMNEY: And when he left, I had a very brave face, went to the airport with his entire family. We all said good-bye. I was driven home with his family, and then I walked into my home, opened the door, my mother was there, I fell flat on the ground and just dissolved in tears and she could not console me.

BORGER: For 2 1/2 years in the turbulent '60s, Romney was living abroad, working every day to convert the skeptical French to his Mormon faith.

So this is this kind of neighborhood that you used to knock on doors in, all day?

MIKE BUSH, ROMNEY MISSIONARY FRIEND: Yes. This -- yes, 45 years ago. Yes, it was -- this is fairly typical.

BORGER: Mike Bush took us back to the streets of Bordeaux, where he and Romney spent 60 hours a week spreading their faith in French.

Did you have a specific message?

BUSH: Well, we would talk to them about our beliefs. We'd talk about Jesus Christ. We'd talk about the book of Mormon.

M. ROMNEY: And you're out speaking with people, people day in and day out, about your faith, and about your religion and differences between it and other faiths.

BORGER: And getting doors slammed in your face?

M. ROMNEY: Most of the time.

BORGER: Yes.

M. ROMNEY: And this was -- this was a time when a lot of people were not happy about America in France. And so it was a time of a great deal of rejection.

BORGER: But Romney kept at it. In a rare conversation about his faith, he reveals how the constant rejection led to some surprising soul searching.

M. ROMNEY: But you say, OK, wait a second. What's important here? What do I believe? What's truth? Is there a god? Is Jesus Christ the son of god? These are questions that are no longer academic, they're critical because you're talking about that day in and day out.

BORGER: As Mitt questioned everything he was raised to believe in, his father tried to get his son back on track.

Your father sent you this letter when you were in France. And he quoted Robert Lewis Stevenson to you in trying to sort of get you not to feel discouraged. And he said, despair not but if you despair, work on in your despair. And then he wrote, so persist.

M. ROMNEY: My dad, what a guy. What a guy. I mean he's always been there for me. And look, I remember my dad's advice throughout my life. Every time I had challenges of one kind or other he was there with counsel. An extraordinary man.

BORGER: Who happened to be running for president while Mitt was a world away, isolated, depending largely on newspaper accounts of his father's fight for the Republican nomination.

GEORGE ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S FATHER: I have decided to fight for and to win the Republican nomination and elections of the presidency of the United States.

BORGER: The war in Vietnam was issue number one. George Romney had been a hawk but turned against the war and said so.

G. ROMNEY: Well, you know, when I came back from Vietnam, I just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the general?

G. ROMNEY: When you go over to Vietnam. And not only by the generals but also by the diplomatic corps over there.

BORGER: Months after George Romney's now infamous brainwashing comment, his campaign collapsed. An early political lesson Mitt Romney would never forget.

KRANISH: Mitt's sister, Jane, has said, for example, that this really deeply affected Mitt. And that he's more careful what he says, more scripted in what he says because he saw how just one phrase could torpedo a presidential campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Governor Romney.

G. ROMNEY: Thank you very much.

BORGER: If George's failure turned Romney into the cautious candidate he is today, he won't admit it.

Some people say you've learned from -- or over-learned from mistakes.

M. ROMNEY: Well, but I do that, too. I tell the truth, too. And he used to say -- one of his favorite sayings was that being right too early is devastating in politics. But, still, it's being right, and you tell people what you believe.

BORGER: What Romney believes has become an issue throughout his political career. And while the message was clearer in France, his mission would almost cost him his life.

A. ROMNEY: I was at home and I had word that he was killed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: In 1968, France was a dangerous place to be for a 21-year-old American. But Mitt Romney was right in the middle of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were protests and there were blockades and there were marches all over the country. BORGER: The streets of France were in chaos.

BUSH: There was no train service, there were no buses, no newspapers. The electricity would go off from time to time. There were no letters from home. The money at the time came via check. That was our lifeline, was getting those letters from home.

BORGER: So you were totally isolated?

BUSH: Totally isolated.

ANDY ANDERSON, MISSION PRESIDENT'S SON: They were out of touch pretty much with 200 missionaries they were responsible for.

BORGER: Andy Anderson's father was leading the Mormon mission in France. By the time the riots end, Romney had been promoted to become President Anderson's assistant and they had an urgent assignment.

HELMAN: They had gotten word that there was some little dispute in this southern city in this Mormon congregation so they decided to drive down to try to resolve it in person and Mitt was driving.

BORGER: It was a warm summer day in June when they began a six-hour drive between Paris and the south of France. Romney was driving Anderson and his wife, Leola.

ANDERSON: They, I believe, were in the town of Beaulac. As they come north, they come near the top of the hill and in their ways a Mercedes. They had no time to react. That was -- the car was on the wrong side of the road.

BORGER: And the Mercedes driver, apparently drunk, slammed into them at full-speed. Both cars crushed and mangled. Mitt Romney and Leola Anderson, unconscious.

A. ROMNEY: George called me on the phone and said we have bad news about Mitt but he didn't tell me what and then he came and picked me up and then took me to his home. I had word that he was killed.

M. ROMNEY: The policeman on the scene apparently thought I was in worse condition than I was and wrote in French, he is dead, on my passport.

A. ROMNEY: We waited for hours and hours. Most of the night, to get word from France that he was actually alive.

M. ROMNEY: I was knocked unconscious and only recall waking up for a brief moment in the ambulance, going to the hospital.

BORGER: It turns out that Romney had a severe concussion and broken bones but Leola, the mom away from home to 200 young missionaries, was dead.

HELMAN: This was a huge deal. I mean this rocked the Mormon community not just in France but all over the world and in Salt Lake City. M. ROMNEY: It was a great time of challenge and soul searching for all of us.

BORGER: Romney, Anderson's assistant, was now left to lead a struggling mission.

M. ROMNEY: The person who had been leading our mission there, a wonderful man, was so injured that he had to return to the United States for surgeries. And during that time, I and one other fellow took responsibility for overseeing the affairs of the 200 or so men and women that are -- boys and girls.

BORGER: Right.

M. ROMNEY: That were serving there as missionaries.

BORGER: This was a critical moment.

DANE MCBRIDE, FRIEND: It was.

BORGER: Morale must have been --

MCBRIDE: Morale was low. By September, we were only halfway toward our yearly goals.

BORGER: Romney kept the mission going and set an ambitious new goal. More than doubling the target for conversions.

MCBRIDE: Mitt said, we need to raise the bar, raise the expectation. If we want to really change behavior, we've got to have people do things different from how they've been doing them.

BORGER: So they did just that.

MCBRIDE: We were dressed up in vaudeville outfits that we had found in the basement of the mission home there. And -- it just -- it brought the house down and it lifted people's spirits and they were laughing again.

BORGER: Spirits were high and so were the number of converts.

MCBRIDE: We were at 80.

BORGER: You were at 80.

MCBRIDE: Which means doubling it in the last four months. Come December 31st, we had 204, 205 new converts that had happened. So it was -- the goal was accomplished.

BORGER: And by the end of his mission, Romney had cemented his faith.

M. ROMNEY: These things drew me closer to the eternal and convinced me that in fact there is a god, that Jesus Christ is the son of god and my savior. And these are -- these are features that continue to be important in my life. T. ROMNEY: He was a young boy when he left, a prankster, and liked to play jokes and didn't -- probably didn't take life too seriously. And then, you know, being in France and having to stand up for what you believe in taught him a lot about himself. And he came back much more studious, much more serious. I think discovered a little bit about who he was and what was important to him.

BORGER: Mitt Romney was ready to return home, but an unexpected letter sent him reeling.

A. ROMNEY: I was just sort of telling him, before he came home, it's like, you know, I haven't seen you for 2 1/2 years, and I'm, you know, I don't -- you know, I'm dating other people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: It might be called the city of lights but Mitt Romney's last months in Paris felt pretty dark. He had gotten word from his girlfriend, Ann Davies, that she was dating another man. But Mitt had to wait until the end of his mission to see her.

A. ROMNEY: He walked off that airplane and we only had eyes for each other.

BORGER: Christmas Eve, 1968.

A. ROMNEY: He walked right by his mother, his father, right to me. And it was as though time had stood still. It was an amazing moment where nothing -- it just dissolved, those 2 1/2 years dissolved, and we were right back to where we were exactly when he left.

BORGER: And he proposed.

A. ROMNEY: And on the car ride home, he was like, my gosh, I've waited so long for you. And let's just get married now. I'm like, why not? Let's do that. And of course, that was not good news to either set of parents.

BORGER: Ann was 19, Mitt, 21. Their parents wanted them to wait. But they wanted a Valentine's Day wedding.

And what did you guys do when you got this?

MCBRIDE: Yes. All right. You know?

BORGER: Close friend, Dane McBride, remembers the telegram he received with the news.

Boom, February 14th, and you knew exactly what he was talking about?

MCBRIDE: Absolutely.

BORGER: At Lenore Romney's request, they waited a month.

MCBRIDE: It was beautiful.

BORGER: You were in the wedding?

MCBRIDE: I was. There was the civil wedding that was performed by a bishop of our church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, at the Davies home, Ann's parents' home.

BORGER: The next morning, they flew to Utah for a second ceremony in Salt Lake City's Mormon temple, where they were sealed for eternity, as the church calls it. Ann's parents couldn't attend because they weren't Mormon. Ann herself was a relatively new convert.

Romney biographer, Scott Herman and Michael Kranish.

HELMAN: When Ann Davies meets Mitt, I think she's searching a little bit for a religious home, I mean, in a way that a teenager does, sort of what does this mean and what do I believe? And this was a big hurdle that they would have to get over if they were really going to be serious.

BORGER: Did Mitt Romney spend a lot of -- spend a lot of time talking faith to Ann or was it George?

KRANISH: Early on when Mitt was going out with Ann, he did give her lessons in what was the Mormon faith all about.

BORGER: Ultimately, Ann's conversion was overseen by George Romney while Mitt was in France.

A. ROMNEY: And he would pick me up every Sunday for church. The reason, I think, it was see so easy for me to talk and talk to him even on a spiritual level like that is that he respected me as his complete equal.

BORGER: Ann and Mitt settled in Provo, Utah, in this $75 a month basement apartment starting a family and getting serious about school. The mission experience in France had clearly refocused Romney.

M. ROMNEY: Life was very different in America than life for the French. And I thought, boy, I've got to work hard in school, I need to be responsible, I need to get back and work. And I began to long for the chance to go back to school and prepare for my life going forward.

BORGER: Brigham Young University was as far from Stanford as Romney could get. He seemed at home in this conservative environment, yet in the midst of his new life, Mitt took off again on the campaign trail in 1970.

M. ROMNEY: She isn't sold a lie to a political ideology.

BORGER: This time, for his mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lenore Romney, candidate for the United States Senate.

BORGER: Lenore, the dutiful candidate's wife, was now the candidate, running for the U.S. Senate seat in Michigan. LENORE ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S MOTHER: I became so concerned about the direction our country has been going-the.

BORGER: Her youngest son, Mitt, was by her side.

Childhood friend, Phillip Maxwell.

MAXWELL: They visited every county in the -- in the state, I think, in the course of that campaign. And by that time, he was very engaged in politics.

BORGER: Romney crossed the entire state with Lenore.

MAXWELL: He was getting a high-level seminar in politics.

L. ROMNEY: They thought that there was a need for the mothers and dads to be able to have a community center.

BORGER: Her style? A cautious elegant diplomat, distinctly different from her husband's bull-in-a-China-shop approach.

MAXWELL: She was just a very gracious woman, but nuanced, careful. And I see that in Mitt.

HELMAN: So I think he had a very advanced and mature understanding of politics, you know, at a pretty young age. And Lenore Romney ended up getting killed in that -- in that Senate race. You know, I think, look, I mean you take away lessons from victories and from defeat.

BORGER: From both parents, George thrives on candor.

G. ROMNEY: There's a growing aimlessness and flabbiness in our American society.

BORGER: Lenore, more cautious. Their son looked for a path somewhere in between. But George Romney steered his son away from politics and toward business first. And two graduate degrees in both business and law at Harvard.

HELMAN: By now, George Romney had seen what it took to succeed and what kind of skills you need and what kind of credentials you needed. And so he was encouraging his son to kind of go beyond where he had been.

BORGER: So in 1972, Mitt, Ann and their two baby boys moved to Massachusetts. But their move from Utah would not be easy.

GRANT BENNETT, CHURCH MEMBER: It's destroy by fire in August of 1984 and the fire department indicated that it was most likely set and they categorized it as of suspicious origin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. ROMNEY: Patty cake, patty cake, baker's man, bake me a cake as fast as you can.

BORGER: It was a full house for the Romneys throughout the '70s here in Belmont, Massachusetts.

T. ROMNEY: It was a lot of fun. I was the oldest of five boys and so there was a lot of chaos.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Your mother once said that your father was kind of like having another teenager in the house?

T. ROMNEY: Yes. We thought of him as a really big older brother for a long time. And he was just a lot of fun to be around.

BORGER: Life was also busy. Romney was starting a lucrative and intense financial consulting job in Boston. Ann was running things at home.

People describe him as the energizer bunny.

A. ROMNEY: My kids joke and say that I'm the Mitt stabilizer.

BORGER: Right.

A. ROMNEY: Because, you know, whenever Mitt might start, you know, winding up and getting really highly energetic, they know that I have a -- like a very calming influence.

BORGER: In the '70s and '80s, Romney was also spending a lot of time with his church, which saw him as a rising star. Energetic, devoted, generous with both time and money.

PHIL BARLOW, MORMON SCHOLAR: Everybody was well aware of Mitt Romney. There was some star power even when he wasn't running for office.

BORGER: Phil Barlow first met Mitt Romney at church in 1979. Like most in the church, he already knew the Romney name but not the Romney work ethic.

BARLOW: A person that busy and successful might tend to pull out their pocketbook rather than take their time and he did both.

BORGER: For more than a decade, Romney was part of the leadership of the Mormon Church in his hometown. The church has no paid clergy, so at the age of 34, Romney was asked to lead his congregation.

M. ROMNEY: Talk about a growing up experience and a learning experience.

BORGER: It is a time he rarely talks about but was surprisingly open with us.

M. ROMNEY: I was like the pastor. And that meant if someone was in the hospital, I needed to see them. And if someone lost their job and couldn't afford to meet their rent payments, I was responsible for helping get them the financial aid they needed. If there was someone contemplating a divorce and they wanted counseling, they'd come to me.

BORGER: Mitt Romney was literally hands-on.

BARLOW: One woman in the ward, single woman, have storm damage and there might be some leakage and he turned to us and said, I haven't got anything better to do that's more important than that after this meeting, how about you, brothers?

BORGER: One of the toughest times for the church came in 1984. Led by Romney, the congregation was building a new meeting house in Belmont. For years, there was a good deal of local opposition.

You got a call in the middle of the night?

BENNETT: Yes. Yes n. This is a -- the building was under construction.

BORGER: Grant Bennett, Romney's right hand man in the church, remembers the call from the fire department. The building had burned to the ground. They suspected arson.

BENNETT: The clergy in the town of Belmont, the Catholics, the Episcopalians, the Congregationalists, the Jewish Temple, came out in force and essentially everyone offered for our congregation to meet in their building.

BORGER: Instead of picking one congregation, Romney picked all of them.

BENNETT: I think he very much saw this as a bridge building opportunity to get to know our neighbors.

BORGER: Romney was less successful bridging another divide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Mormon Church is the arch enemy of women's rights in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The '70s was a decade when the ERA was being pushed and the Mormon Church came out in the early '70s and took a very active position against the ERA.

BORGER: Judy (INAUDIBLE) was a member of Romney's congregation and a feminist fighting for women's rights in the Mormon Church like having more of leadership role or being able to deliver a sermon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There we were suddenly faced with a church we'd all loved and grown up in. And suddenly, it was taking this very unusual and we thought strange position.

BORGER: So what about when Mitt Romney became bishop?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I expected a comforter, I expected somebody who would protect women and who would have an inclusive attitude and would be equally interested in the peace of mind of all of us and I did not feel that in his congregation.

M. ROMNEY: Well, I'm sure we all have different memories.

BORGER: Romney recalls a meeting he led with more than 300 Mormon women.

M. ROMNEY: I adopted many of the recommendations that they offered. But there were some recommendations --

BORGER: Not all.

M. ROMNEY: Not all. Because the doctrine of my church is not something I'm in a position to change.

A. ROMNEY: I look at that as a time where, you know, I saw Mitt soften and change. And it was a learning experience for all of us. And, you know -- but I -- but I saw a person that was respectful and listening and caring.

BORGER: But (INAUDIBLE) didn't think he was sympathetic at all and believes he bears a grudge against her to this day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's indicative of the way Mitt sees the world. There are certain people who matter and certain people who he approves of and other people that he doesn't approve of and if he doesn't approve of them. He thinks they don't have the same kind of standing, they don't have the same kind of merit, they don't have the same kind of right to function and to hold opinions and to participate.

BORGER: Something others around him at the time fiercely deny.

BENNETT: I would call him open and welcome to new ideas. And if there's a better way, absolutely, let's do it the better way.

BORGER: In business, Romney would invent the Bain way, something that would pay off in years to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: It was the heady '80s, big money, corporate buyouts, and dramatic takeovers. Mitt Romney was knee-deep in it. A rising star at a Boston consulting group, Bain & Company, which had a great pitch, help businesses make money by cutting costs.

KRANISH: And by all accounts, Mitt Romney was very successful in advising companies how to improve their business operations.

BORGER: But soon Romney's boss had a better idea, instead of just advising companies, why not buy them with investor money to generate huge profits. And Bain Capital was born.

Early partner, Jeffrey Rennart.

RENNART: Well, it was a lot of long hours, a lot of late nights. A lot of learning, but, you know, a lot of success?

BORGER: So what kind of leader was Mitt Romney during those early years?

RENNART: I would say in the early years, Mitt was a lead by example kind of leader. He -- you know, he dug in, you know, did analysis side by side with us.

BORGER: And it paid off. Bain Capital invested in more than 100 companies, nearly doubling its returns for clients annually.

M. ROMNEY: How you doing?

BORGER: Romney made a lot of money. And he would later claim, created a lot of jobs. But a former bank colleague who talked off- camera about whether the company's emphasis was on job creation told CNN, quote, "We were in the business of creating value for investors."

Was job creation or making money the goal?

M. ROMNEY: Well, every business is organized to create a return for the people who invest in the business. And as businesses are successful and profitable, they're able to hire people. And they can hire more people the more successful they are. Businesses are created to provide a return to the owners or the investors. And it has a wonderful byproduct. It employees more and more people. And that's the nature of American enterprise.

And if I'm elected your senator --

BORGER: Ten years into his run at Bain Capital, Romney decided it was time to leave business for politics, just as his father had done.

M. ROMNEY: I will work very hard to make sure that everybody gets a good job.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How are you feeling?

TED KENNEDY, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR: Energized and enthusiastic.

BORGER: Romney's target, Senator Ted Kennedy.

Not exactly starting at the bottom of the ladder there.

(LAUGHTER)

M. ROMNEY: I told my colleagues at work, don't clean up my desk and don't move into my office, because, you know, I'll be spending a little time away from work and it will be a leave of absence. But I really believed that someone needs to run against Ted Kennedy.

BORGER: Kennedy was vulnerable. His personal life seemed out of control. And as his son, Patrick, remembers it, the contrast with Romney was glaring.

PATRICK KENNEDY, TED KENNEDY'S SON: And opposite my dad was this really great looking guy who was a whiz at business, beautiful family, kind of the picture of self-discipline. And next to my dad, he was like the perfect polar opposite.

M. ROMNEY: How are you? Yes.

BORGER: Except during that race on social issues --

M. ROMNEY: Let me ask you a question.

BORGER: -- Mitt Romney sounded an awful lot like Ted Kennedy.

M. ROMNEY: I'm absolutely committed to achieving universal coverage and doing so for our children.

BORGER: Were you a liberal? Were you a moderate?

M. ROMNEY: You know, anyone can call me whatever they like but people can look at my policies and make their own determination.

BORGER: Ted Divine worked for the Kennedy campaign.

DIVINE: Mitt Romney ran as a strongly pro-choice candidate. He told the newspaper in Boston, the gay newspaper in Boston, that he'd be better at gay rights than Ted Kennedy.

BORGER: Are you saying that Romney -- I mean, that he's just an opportunist?

DIVINE: I think Romney is a guy who looks at politics the way he looks at business and business deals. That this doesn't represent some ideological path for him. That -- you know, and I think anyone who looks at his position on issues has to come to that judgment. That for Romney, politics is a means of, you know, obtaining power to do things that he wants to do.

BORGER: By the fall of 1994, it was a dead heat. And the Kennedy campaign was looking for a silver bullet. They found it in Bain Capital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like Romney's creating jobs because he took every one of them away.

BORGER: The ads featured workers for a paper company in Indiana. After a Bain-owned company took it over, many of its workers lost their jobs. Romney says he wasn't at Bain at the time. His opponents say his actions led to the job cuts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you think you'd make such a good senator, come out here to Marion, Indiana, and see what your company has done to these people.

BORGER: It worked so well the Obama campaign is using the same Indiana company, even the same people, again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't care anything about the middle class or the lower class people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we are successful --

BORGER: Romney's religious beliefs played a part as well. Senator Kennedy's nephew, Joe, at one point, attacked the Mormon Church for not allowing blacks to join the priesthood, a policy that had changed 16 years earlier.

M. ROMNEY: The president of our church --

BORGER: Romney went on the offensive citing the speech John F. Kennedy gave addressing his Roman Catholic faith.

M. ROMNEY: In my view, the victory that John Kennedy won was not just for 40 million Americans who are born Catholics. It was for all Americans of all faiths. And I am sad to see that Ted Kennedy is trying to take away his brother's victory.

G. ROMNEY: My son's position is the same as Jack Kennedy's position.

BORGER: Even Romney's father, George, entered the fray.

G. ROMNEY: I think it's absolutely wrong to keep hammering on the religious issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Romney --

BORGER: Then in October, a critical debate.

M. ROMNEY: Senator Kennedy and his family have a multiple real estate empire across this country.

BORGER: Romney accused the Kennedy family of financially benefitting from real estate deals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, 15 seconds.

T. KENNEDY: Mr. Romney, the Kennedys are not in public service to make -- to make money. We have paid too high a price in our commitment to the public service.

BORGER: Ted Kennedy began pulling away and Mitt Romney lost.

RENNART: He was back at work the next day. The election was Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, he was back at his desk.

M. ROMNEY: We kind of expected it. It was -- it's interesting, Ann was more upset by it than I. But losing put me back into business and I was more successful than I had been before.

BORGER: But not long after, something that would make political defeat seem trivial.

A. ROMNEY: I think my diagnosis was probably the roughest thing we had to go through as a couple.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: It was just before Thanksgiving, 1998.

M. ROMNEY: She began to see some numbness on her right side. It began spreading larger and larger. She was having more difficulty getting upstairs. And we went to a neurologist. BORGER: Romney's life was about to take an unexpected and unhappy turn.

M. ROMNEY: We went into his office. He performed an examination. And it was very clear that she was flunking the examination. She couldn't stand on her right foot without falling over and so forth. And he stepped out and she began to cry and I welled up tears as well. And we hugged each other. And said, you know, something's terribly wrong.

BORGER: At age 49, Ann Romney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable disease that can shut down the central nervous system.

A. ROMNEY: You don't know how much is it going to chew me up and spit me out. Where is it going to -- and when is it going to spit me out? How sick am I going to get? Is this going to be progressive? Am I going to be in a wheelchair? And it's a very very frightening place to be.

M. ROMNEY: And I know Ann was really distraught and distressed with the diagnosis, particularly as time went on because she was really ill for quite a while.

A. ROMNEY: I really just was having a very, very hard time and was very depressed. And had kind of given up a little bit.

T. ROMNEY: It was a tough moment for both of them. You know, it was interesting to see the way he treated her as they went through that. Very caring, very loving, very frustrating for him not to be able to step in and fix it, and -- but it was, you know, they drew even closer.

A. ROMNEY: Even when I was as sick as that, he would curl up in the bed with me.

BORGER: Take a minute.

A. ROMNEY: So you just knew that that's where he was. It was like he was going to do anything he could to just say, I'm here, you're OK, just stay right there, and we'll be OK.

BORGER: As the Romneys were struggling to get Ann's MS under control, they were about to face a challenge of an entirely different sort.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could the scandal over Salt Lake's Olympic bid shatter on the city's quest to host the winter games?

BORGER: The 2002 Winter Olympics were in trouble. Salt Lake City was embroiled in a bribery scandal that threatened to bring down the games. So the search was on for someone to repair the damage.

HELMAN: The list of people who could have come in and saved the 2002 Olympics began and ended with Mitt Romney.

BORGER: Romney knew finance, politics and was a Mormon. And that made him the top choice. A. ROMNEY: They called me instead of Mitt because they knew that Mitt would turn them down flat.

M. ROMNEY: She called me at work said, you know, I want you to -- don't say no, Mitt. I think you ought to go run the Olympics. I said don't be ridiculous. That's absolutely crazy. I'd never do that. But over time, she convinced me.

BORGER: So despite Ann's health issues, the Romneys left Bain and moved to Utah in 1999. But when Romney really left Bain capital is now controversial. On paper, he remained chief executive officer, raising the question of his responsibility for companies that laid off workers when he was in Utah. He says that he was gone from the company completely, that the Olympics were all consuming.

T. ROMNEY: When he got there, it was a disaster. And -- he was panicked. He really seriously considered saying, you know, we -- it's not going to work here, there's just too many problems.

BORGER: Romney need help, so he rallied an old friend from Bain Capital, Fraser Bullock, to be the games' chief operating officer.

FRASER BULLOCK, former COO, SALT LAKE CITY OLYMPICS: Mitt did describe it as stepping into an empty elevator shaft because you're not sure -- you're falling and you're not sure when you're going to hit ground.

BORGER: Bullet joined the team that tried to do damage control. They created an operating plan, tried to convince sponsors to stay on board, and took a critical look at the nearly $400 million budget deficit staring them in the face. And even got rid of the usual catering at Olympic board meetings.

F. BULLOCK: We had Domino's Pizza. And it was a dollar a slice. Because he knew he could buy a pizza for five bucks, cut it into eight slices, sell them for a dollar a slice, get $8 of revenue for every pizza at a cost of $5. He turned the lunches from a cost center into a profit center.

M. ROMNEY: The Olympics is like putting on seven Super Bowls a day for 17 days straight.

BORGER: And he became the public face of the games, even becoming an amateur participant, seen here on the skeleton.

So, did he say one day, I think I'm going to try the skeleton?

F. BULLOCK: Yes. He said, I'm going to go try this. He got better and better and better so he could get going 70 miles an hour, which is crazy.

BORGER: But hidden from the public was the continuing personal struggle.

F. BULLOCK: Mitt was always just constantly worried about Ann. She was really deteriorating. M. ROMNEY: And she battled through it. She got good help from wonderful physicians.

Tell us who has to be called.

BORGER: By August of 2001, it looked like they had Ann's MS and the Olympics under control. But then, 9/11.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Smoke everywhere.

BORGER: Unspeakable sorrow and a very real fear of terrorism at the Olympics.

M. ROMNEY: It's a time for us to make sure that everyone in the world recognizes that we don't stop as a nation, that the characteristics of honor and courage, sacrifice and devotion, which is represented by the Olympic athletes is a message more important today than perhaps ever before.

BORGER: Over the next five months and with the help of some money from the federal government, security was beefed up. And the games began.

F. BULLOCK: We had about 250 athletes that came in, did the Parade of Nations, walked all the way around.

HELMAN: It was a great moment for him, I think. And as one political pollster in Utah said at the time, you know, Mitt Romney could walk on water at that point.

BORGER: But not everyone agreed.

KEN BULLOCK, SALT LAKE CITY OLYMPICS: Mitt and I often had disagreements about how or what we thought the games were about. And I wasn't on his team, so to speak.

It's a gold medal day for Utah.

BORGER: Ken Bullock, no relation to Fraser Bullock, was on the organizing committee of the Salt Lake City Olympics before and after Romney was brought on board.

He was a sort of my way or the highway kind of guy?

K. BULLOCK: Absolutely, no question. To me, the games were about Utah. It wasn't about Mitt.

BORGER: Bullock claims Romney made the problems look worse than they really were. A calculated political move to ensure public success.

K. BULLOCK: Did we need to raise revenue, were we short? Yes. Were we three years out? Yes. Big difference of the games being around the corner.

BORGER: So you think he overstated the problem?

K. BULLOCK: Dramatically. Dramatically.

BORGER: It's a charge the Romney camp scoffs at. And in the end, the 2002 Olympics were profitable and one of the most successful winter games in history.

HELMAN: He had pulled off this big success. He had rescued these games and now it was a question of what he would parlay that into.

BORGER: It wouldn't take long for that question to be answered.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BORGER: The opening ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Olympics were still more than a month away but Mitt Romney already had other plans. Bette Myers remembers getting a call from Romney in January.

BETTE MYERS, ROMNEY CHIEF OF STAFF: I'm thinking about running for governor and would you have any interest in helping me run my campaign?

BORGER: Massachusetts had a Republican governor, Jane Swift, but party leaders saw her as weak, so they came to Romney in a panic.

HELMAN: Jane Swift gets wind of this and two days later, she bows out. So she's out and Mitt Romney is in. He flies back to Belmont with his wife, Ann, they're both wearing Olympic jackets, they gave a press conference and the campaigns begin.

BORGER: Romney spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom.

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY SPOKESMAN: It was like being launched out of a rocket.

M. ROMNEY: How you doing?

FEHRNSTROM: And as you know, this is a very Democratic state. The legislature is 85 percent Democrat, very few Republicans make it into statewide office. And so we had a fight on our hands.

BORGER: He ran as a moderate on social issues, vowing to clean up state government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you raise your right hand, please?

BORGER: It worked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Governor.

M. ROMNEY: Thank you.

BORGER: From the beginning, Romney relied on a small set of advisors, Bette Myers, who has never spoken on camera before, was chief of staff.

People call you Romney's Romney? MYERS: For four years, we sat in offices that had a door between us and we popped back and forth between each other's offices all day long. We talked about faith. We talked about the issues of the day.

BORGER: First order of business, treat government like a business.

MYERS: We had a huge budget deficit. So every morning, we'd come in, we'd have stacks and stacks of budget books, and line by line and Mitt would meet in his staff office every morning with the Cabinet secretaries.

BORGER: It was the way he had always done it at Bain, at the Olympics. But here, not everyone was on Romney's team.

MYERS: I will agree he was a different cat than what people on Beacon Hill were used to. And I think that's probably a pretty good thing.

M. ROMNEY: I got better over time. And I know I made mistakes in how I dealt with others in the legislature but we started off pretty well.

BORGER: Then, two years into his term, he set his sights on something bigger, something that would mean a legacy -- health care.

HELMAN: He had not had a major achievement that he could point to as some big political success in a future campaign. He needed something to say, I had done this and it was a big deal.

BORGER: Romney decided to push for health care to cover everyone in the state. But that meant mandating most residents to buy health insurance.

FEHRNSTROM: The governor felt that it would be wrong for the economy and wrong for our business sector to impose a mandate on employers, to require them to provide insurance to their employees. But he felt it very important that people take responsibility for their own health care.

BORGER: It was Romney's big moment. But now a liability. Republicans bitterly oppose any kind of mandate in today's presidential race.

HELMAN: I think the politics of it have been so complicated that it's ironic the biggest thing he achieved as governor is something he almost never talks about.

BORGER: No less complicated, the politics of abortion. While Romney was personally opposed to abortion, he ran for governor supporting abortion rights. But once in office and presented with stem cell legislation that would, in Romney's view, have the potential of destroying embryos, he changed his mind.

M. ROMNEY: And I realized that what sounded good in a campaign, when I actually became the governor and was going to be the person who would sign a piece of legislation, which could take human life, I simply couldn't do that.

BORGER: Democrats say it was about ambition.

DIVINE: He wanted to run for president of the United States. And he understood that within the Republican nominating process, somebody who is pro-choice and pro gay rights or anything in terms of a progressive stance would lose.

MYERS: I didn't ever see it as a -- as a flip-flop. I think that what you saw was the tension between personal beliefs and a public persona.

BORGER: None of this would slow Romney down. His sights were already set on the White House in 2008. But there were doubts about his convictions and questions about his Mormon faith, a religion some evangelicals call a cult.

BARLOW: Mormonism is the most colorful and controversial, politically toxic and dangerous because people pull out strands and skewer them.

BORGER: There was no avoiding it, though, so Romney decided to give a crucial speech on his faith in the primaries.

MYERS: He wrote it. He really wrote every word.

BORGER: He wrote every word of it. I mean you very rarely hear that about a politician.

MYERS: He did.

M. ROMNEY: I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.

BORGER: Ultimately, 2008 was not Mitt Romney's year. It was John McCain's. A brutal loss for Romney and his family.

M. ROMNEY: I feel I have to now stand aside.

A. ROMNEY: And for me, I was like, that's it. OK. We did that. That's fine. Never again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. ROMNEY: You guys are great. Almost but not quite.

A. ROMNEY: I will never do this again. And I -- I just made sure it was very emphatic.

BORGER: The Romney family seemed done with politics and didn't keep it a secret.

A. ROMNEY: It was, again, a very bruising thing. I think people forget that these are real families with people they love that are going through these hard times.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, FORMER ROMNEY SENIOR ADVISOR: When you lose, there's a period of intense disappointment. BORGER: Alex was a senior Romney advisor during the 2008 campaign.

CASTELLANOS: He's not a wallow-in-defeat kind of guy. He's OK, that's done, stand up, let's see where we go from here.

BORGER: The reasons for the loss were in plain sight. The campaign was a muddle. The staff divided and the candidate struggled to connect.

CASTELLANOS: Mitt's a man who likes to talk more about what he does than who he is. So it's hard to get beneath the shell sometimes. He's a private guy.

BORGER: And back in his private life, Romney kept his options open, writing a book, raising money for other Republicans, and waiting for the right opportunity and the go-ahead.

F. BULLOCK: Ann is the one that then came to Mitt and said, I'm ready. Let's do this again.

BORGER: So why the change of heart?

M. ROMNEY: It was a change of heart. What this MS disease has taught me is to learn how to be self-contained and how to not absorb some of the negative things and to recognize that it was an endeavor that was worth doing and worth pursuing.

M. ROMNEY: I'm Mitt Romney. I believe in America and I'm running for president of the United States.

BORGER: But it was a different environment this time around. Very anti-establishment. So Romney was reborn as an outsider.

M. ROMNEY: I served in government but I didn't inhale. I'm still a business guy.

BORGER: Fixing his 2008 mistake, Romney had one driving message.

M. ROMNEY: And have the experience to get our economy back on track. That's the kind of leader I aspire to be.

BORGER: It became his mantra. But the Tea Party full of contempt for health care reform never trusted Romney, the man who reformed health care in Massachusetts.

Erick Erickson is the editor of Redstate.com, a conservative Web site.

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR, REDSTATE.COM: You sit in the room of conservatives behind the scenes without cameras on and ask them how many really believe that Mitt Romney is going to fully repeal Obamacare, I don't think a hand will go up in the room.

BORGER: And when Romney calls himself this.

M. ROMNEY: I was a severely conservative Republican governor.

BORGER: He gets this.

ERICKSON: That's not a line you hear conservatives say about themselves, that's something you hear Democrats say about conservatives.

M. ROMNEY: But this is not the time to be doubting people's words.

BORGER: One by one, the old demons reappeared.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Romney-care.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pro-abortion.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Bain Capital.

BORGER: Handing the Democrats a primer on Romney's vulnerabilities.

M. ROMNEY: And I'll release multiple years. I don't know how many years.

BORGER: On Bain, flip-flops, taxes, secrecy, his wealth. But Romney finally crawled across the finish line. And his new junior partner, Paul Ryan, has given reluctant conservatives some hope.

M. ROMNEY: I want to hear what he has to say on this topic.

BORGER: But presidential politics is about more than just piecing together coalition. It's also about telling a story of who you are, what you believe and why you can be trusted.

T. ROMNEY: He's very professional. He's got a bit of New England in him when he's up doing a job, he's going to do it professionally. But he's not the caricature that the media or the Democrats want to portray. He's a very warm caring guy.

M. ROMNEY: Good morning.

BORGER: Romney is trying to let people in, like wading into scripture as he speaks after the Aurora, Colorado, shootings.

M. ROMNEY: Blessed be God who comforth us in all our tribulations.

A. ROMNEY: And that's, to me, about 90 percent of who he is. That's the -- that's the Mitt that I wish people would see all the time because that's how I know him and that's how I think of him. And there are moments like that where you can see that and really get a lens into his soul.

BORGER: But it can be fuzzy much of the time, leaving an opening for the opposition.

People say you're secretive, you're out of touch. You play by a different set of rules.

M. ROMNEY: Well, I know that the Obama campaign is going to do everything they can to try and deflect from the economic record of the president and his failure to come up with a plan to get the economy going in the future.

BORGER: No doubt Romney is on message this time. He wants us to believe he can fix things, like the economy, and won't give up until he does. But that's the easy part of his story. The rest is harder to tell. He's a devout Mormon who still worries it will be held against him. He's more pragmatist than ideologue, more private than public.

And in the end, more cautious than candid. Perhaps the ultimate lesson Mitt Romney learned from his father's life.

M. ROMNEY: He cared about passion for the mission that he was in this middle of fighting for and winning or losing didn't change his perspective at all about who he was. He's been defined as a man of character throughout his life and elections don't change that.

BORGER: Do you feel that way as you look at this election, win or lose?

M. ROMNEY: Absolutely. This is a choice that's up to the American people. And who I am has been long ago decided by my wife, by my five sons, by my grandkids, daughters in law and the people who know me best.