Willard "Mitt" Romney
Born: March 12, 1947, in Detroit
Job history: governor of Massachusetts, 2003-07; founder, Bain Capital, 1994-99; CEO, Salt Lake City Olympic Games Organizing Committee, 1999-2002
Education: B.A., Brigham Young University; M.B.A., Harvard Business School; J.D., Harvard Law School
Personal: Married to Ann (Davies) Romney; Mormon
Campaign website: MittRomney.com
Being labeled the early front-runner has had its disadvantages for Mitt Romney. One is that he is the bull's-eye for attacks from both Democrats and fellow Republicans hoping to take him down a couple of pegs. What might have been Romney's biggest asset some years ago — the passage of a health care plan that has resulted in virtually all Massachusetts residents being insured — has become a liability for Romney as he woos a party largely opposed to the individual mandates in both the Romney plan and the new federal law.
While Romney is facing persistent challenges from the more conservative candidates for the nomination, he enjoys many early advantages, including name recognition and fundraising ability.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
Romney has proposed sweeping reforms in entitlements to reduce the budget deficit. In a Nov. 4 speech to the Tea Party-affiliated group Americans for Prosperity, Romney called for gradually raising the Social Security age "to keep pace with increases in longevity," although the former Massachusetts governor did not specify when and how the eligibility changes would take place. On the campaign trail, Romney has advocated smaller benefits hikes for wealthier Social Security recipients.
On Medicare, Romney wants to offer patients a "generous defined contribution" to buy either Medicare or private insurance. "Lower-income future retirees should receive the most assistance," Romney said in an op-ed laying out the plan, and those now at or near retirement would not be affected. He has not released specifics about the subsidies but said the plan would lower costs by increasing competition.
Like many in his party, Romney wants to cap spending for Medicaid, turn it into a block-grant program and give control of it to the states.
Taxes and budget
Romney has been less absolute over his career on the matter of taxes. The former businessman has spoken in favor of eliminating capital gains and investment taxes for people making less than $200,000 a year; he also favors scrapping the estate tax. He refused to sign a no-new-taxes pledge in 2002, calling it "gimmickry," but signed it in 2007. At a 2007 debate, he also called for unspecified tax relief for middle-class families. He supports efforts to close the federal budget deficit and has criticized Obama for a lack of leadership on the issue.
Romney touts the fact that he didn't raise taxes as governor. However, he did raise many fees — including a two-cent-per-gallon gasoline fee — bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues to state coffers. He has rejected the "fair tax" as unworkable. As governor, Romney backed subway and commuter rail expansion, and said he preferred public transit to new or widened highways. Romney proposed eliminating federal funding for Amtrak.
Susan Milligan is a prize-winning Washington reporter.
Also of interest: AARP’s voter education guide.