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Learning from his father

If you're still not sure who Mitt Romney is, you're not alone. But in a recent New York magazine piece, Benjamin Wallace-Wells sheds new light on Romney's political instincts by examining the presumptive Republican nominee's father, George Romney. The elder Romney was, like his son, a businessman and a Republican politician. He served as CEO of American Motors Corporation and as governor of Michigan. And like his son, he had a strong belief in corporate institutions. But George Romney also believed in government and the role it could play in helping the country.  In 1968, George Romney ran for President on that platform. But times had changed and he lost to the right wing of the party, which grabbed control of the G.O.P. and all but alienated moderates like Romney.

Wallace-Wells writes of how this may have shaped Mitt Romney:

"It is possible to think of the difference between George and Mitt Romney as a series of adaptive changes, in which the original moderate instincts have devolved so completely that Mitt’s response to a rising and angry conservatism resembles Nixon’s far more than his father’s. Perhaps Mitt noticed, following the 1968 campaign intently from Europe, that it was Nixon’s opportunism, his skill at exploiting fears of unsettling demographic change, that won. But it is also true that George Romney’s cherished institutions have lost their power, and the vision in which they would make a better society has collapsed. In Mitt’s politics, his father’s fervent progressivism has become instead an ideologically empty pragmatism that succumbs to whatever his audience wants to hear. What remains is the peculiar character of the current Republican nominee for president, an organization man without organizations."

Check out Alex's interview with Wallace-Wells, who also talks about the race for campaign cash. President Obama is still in the lead, but Romney is quickly coming from behind.