How Mitt’s Mom Shaped Him

2 minute read
Richard Stengel

Mitt Romney is often compared to his hard-driving father George, the businessman turned governor turned unsuccessful presidential candidate. But the real political influence on him may well be his demure and gracious mother Lenore, whose failed 1970 race in Michigan for the U.S. Senate seems to have been etched into the son’s psyche. Whereas George welcomed and was energized by political combat, Lenore sought to turn aside conflict with finesse and compromise. The son watched and learned.

TIME contributing editor-at-large Bart Gellman has written a cover story that will become the template for understanding why Mitt is his mother’s son. Together with writer-reporter Elizabeth Dias, Bart delved deeply into archives and documents that shed light on Mitt’s formative years. Using that reporting, Bart explains that Romney’s principal takeaway was to “avoid error.” Elizabeth flew out to the University of Michigan to look at a trove of unpublished documents and photos of Lenore. Elizabeth also tracked down the work of two Look magazine photographers who shot Lenore back in 1966 and ’70 and who had given their unpublished negatives to the Library of Congress. Some of those never-before-seen images are in TIME this week, and you can find more online at

In our exclusive interview with Mitt Romney–which you will find at the end of the cover story–TIME editor-at-large Mark Halperin asked him about what he learned from his mother. Romney pored over the archival pictures our team showed him of himself as a young man with his mother. In the interview, Romney goes into detail about what he would do as President to fix the economy.

Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR

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