Clean-cut Romney sons on the stump in New Hampshire
CONCORD, New Hampshire
CONCORD, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Square-jawed and clean-cut, four of Mitt Romney's five sons made a campaign swing through New Hampshire on Thursday to push their father's presidential bid and try to boost his credentials as a family man.
While the elder Romney stumped in Iowa ahead of the January 3 caucuses there, Tagg, Josh, Matt and Craig Romney met voters at a coffee shop and ate lunch with local Republicans in New Hampshire, which holds its primary in the Republican race to nominate a presidential candidate on January 10.
The Romney sons planned to swing by the candidate's state headquarters in Manchester, where a nightly phone-a-thon is taking place as part of a get-out-the-vote effort. A fifth brother, Ben, is doing his medical residency in radiology in Utah.
"We're excited. It's the home stretch. I like where we are," Tagg Romney, the oldest son, who followed his father into the venture capital business, told Reuters.
"The priority of American voters is to turn the economy around, and they recognize that my dad is the best equipped to do that, and the best equipped to beat Barack Obama. I feel really good about it," said Tagg, 41.
It was a not-so-subtle display of family values intended to make voters more comfortable with Romney, who has been a Republican front-runner for months but has failed to go beyond around 25 percent of the vote in polls.
Some of Romney's television spots have highlighted family strength and consistency: a 42-year marriage, quintet of clean-cut sons and 16 grandchildren.
One has been airing in Iowa and New Hampshire this month, creating an unspoken contrast to recent frontrunner, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is on his third wife after well-publicized marital infidelities.
Josh Romney, 36, has campaigned actively this year from his home base in Salt Lake City. "My dad is my hero," he said. "He's taught me everything I need to know about being a father and about loving my country."
The boys stuck mostly to the campaign playbook of emphasizing the candidate's record as a businessman, having rescued the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and run the neighboring state of Massachusetts as governor.
But they also gave a glimpse of their father's personal values.
"My dad has more energy than anyone I've ever seen," Josh Romney said. "He is also tremendously cheap."
As children in Belmont, Massachusetts, the boys said they learned not to leave the tap water running too long, or they would get a rebuke from their father, who was in the process of building the venture capital powerhouse Bain Capital.
"Congress would learn pretty quickly that they're not going to get money from my dad either," Josh Romney said.
About 20 local Republicans, mostly avowed Romney fans, quizzed the sons in Concord about their father's positions on everything from trade to rare earth mineral extraction.
Betsy Miller of Bow, New Hampshire said meeting Romney's sons helped round out her picture of the candidate. "It gives a down-deep impression of their father's personality and values," she said. "They are very down to earth."
The Romney sons said they had encouraged their often buttoned-down father to follow up a recent appearance on comedian David Letterman's late-night talk show with spots on other shows, such as "Saturday Night Live," to showcase his lighter side.
"My dad's image couldn't be further from the truth," said Matt Romney, 40, who works at a real estate investment trust in San Diego. "If you see him in other settings, he's the most fun guy out there. He's always joking around."
Most opinion polls show Romney leading by double digits among likely voters in the agenda-setting January 10 Republican primary here. But the Romney campaign has left little to chance. Romney will briefly interrupt his Iowa campaigning to make stops in New Hampshire over the weekend.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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