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Romney sons defend dad, say goofiness is part of his charm

By NBC's Peter Alexander and Ronnie Polidoro
Rock Center

The Romney brothers could soon become America’s first sons.  Ranging in age from 31 to 42, their names are Craig, Ben, Josh, Matt, and Tagg – but you may have seen them spoofed on Saturday Night Live as Taggart, Tanner, Tigit, Targalac, and Tic-Tac.   Which one of them is the biggest mama’s boy?  NBC’s Peter Alexander found out during an interview for an upcoming Rock Center story airing Thursday, July 19 at 10pm/9c.

Just like any group of brothers, they like to pick on each other, even during their first sit-down interview of the 2012 campaign.  They say Josh, the middle son, is the mama’s boy.

“Thanks guys. Let’s take it easy here,” replied Josh, one of three Romney sons who works in real estate.  Another son is a doctor.  The eldest runs a private equity firm like their father once did.    

They are all married and have a combined total of 18 children.  If Romney wins, he’ll have more grandkids than any sitting president in U.S. history.  

The Romney sons grew up in Belmont, Mass., an affluent suburb outside of Boston.  All of the brothers attended the same private school and later the same college, Brigham Young University.  Three of them went on and received their MBA’s from Harvard, just like their father.   

The boys were raised in a Mormon household where Saturdays were devoted to service.  And all five followed their father’s footsteps by going overseas on two-year missions to spread their Mormon beliefs. 

They are campaign veterans, on the trail stumping for their father since he first ran for Senate 18 years ago.  But when it came to Romney’s second run for the White House, four of his five boys didn’t want him to run. 

“I didn’t want him to run again.  I really didn’t,” Matt said, “I thought you know, you gave it your best shot in 2008, you felt like you had to do it, you had to go and give back to the country and you tried, and they didn’t take you, so let’s move on.”    

Along the way, they have heard about how their father has struggled at times to connect with the public.  The campaign hopes the sons can help explain some of their father’s more idiosyncratic moments, for example, when Romney told an audience, “It just feels good being back in Michigan.  You know, the trees are the right height.”

“He’s a little goofy,” said Tagg, “That’s part of his charm, I think.”

But the biggest criticism is that the wealthy Romney family can’t understand the economic challenges facing the average American family.  The sons insist their family and their father are not out of touch.

“We've obviously been very blessed,” Craig said, “And because of that we feel a responsibility to make sure we can do everything we can to make this country as great as it can be.”

They say they are not put off by the accusations, even within the Republican Party, that their father is aloof and a flip-flopper.  

“His true identity will come out and we know what a great father he is, we know how much he loves the country, we know how much he loves our kids,” Matt said, “It’s not ambition that’s driving him.  It is really a desire to give back.  and this is how he thinks he can give back.  And we agree.”

Editor’s Note: NBC’s Peter Alexander’s full report ‘The Romney 5’ will air Thursday, July 19 at 10pm/9c on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.