Published November 15, 2010
Mitt Romney may be a favorite to win the 2012 Republican presidential primary based on a combination of a strong showing in the 2008 race and a genetic quirk.
While Romney had the second highest number of delegates to Arizona Sen. John McCain when he dropped out of the crowded race in February 2008 -- and was eventually eclipsed for the No. 2 spot by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee – the former Massachusetts governor has presidential politics in his blood.
His father, George, an auto executive was governor of Michigan who ran for president in 1968 but lost the nomination to Richard Nixon.
So far, Romney is treading the same path.
He amassed a reported $200 million fortune on Wall Street before unsuccessfully challenging Sen. Ted Kennedy for his seat.
Though he lost that 1994 race, he continued to show his leadership skills, first taking over a scandal-plagued Salt Lake City Olympic Committee in 1999 and turning the 2002 winter games into a commercial success -- then running successfully for Massachusetts governor.
His signature achievement as governor: legislation that extended health care coverage to everyone in the state by employing an array of financial carrots and sticks such as tax penalties for those who refused to buy insurance.
"Romneycare" was one of his main selling points when he ran for president in 2008, but in the years since it passed, it has turned out to be more and more expensive and less and less popular.
Now, with the passage of President Obama's signature health care law on the books, Romney's plan appears to be his biggest liability among Republican voters.
Romney who refused to sit down with Fox News' Bret Baier for the 12 in 2012 series, but has appeared on a number of Fox News programs, and has been asked about health care on more than one occasion, insists the two laws are very different.
"Ours is a state solution to a state problem within the rights of the constitution. Obamacare is a federal intrusion of power taking over the rights of states and the rights of families, the rights of doctors. It is a massive abuse of constitutional power. And for that reason I think it needs to be repealed and we need to do a better job to get health care reform in a way that makes it work more like a market," he told Fox News' Sean Hannity.
"What the bill did was to say look, we're going to solve a problem at the state level. Two big things that are very different than Obamacare. One is states should be able to solve state problems. The federal government should not step in as the president has, take away the right of states. We solved our problem on a bipartisan basis. We also had the business community, the health care community come together," he told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.
Romney would much rather talk about something else -- his plan to turn around the economy, an issue that ranks as one of his biggest strengths, notes University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato.
"If we're still having severe economic dislocation in 2012, Romney can sell his background as a businessman, as-- savior of the Olympics, as governor of Massachusetts. He fits the bill," Sabato said.
Indeed, the what-ifs of the economy make some wonder if he would have been the GOP nominee had the financial crisis hit the U.S. a couple months before primary season rather than a couple months afteward.
"I want to make it very clear that I am not going to raise taxes," he said in 2008, noting his time as governor of Massachusetts. "We faced a huge budget gap and I went in and said you know what I know some people want to raise taxes but that's going to hurt working families and scare away jobs. I recognize that raising taxes could also slow down our economy so we didn't do it and we balanced our budget, and that's exactly what I will do with the federal government."
Romnmey is also a Mormon, a religion that some thought might hurt him in 2008, but clearly wasn't an issue according to polls. What could hurt him with conservative voters, however, is his position on abortion. Though he says he is personally pro-life, as an adult, Romney has changed his position on abortion not once, but twice.
But Romney has some crossover appeal to both Tea Party candidates and moderates. He was an early supporter of Tea Party-approved candidate Sen.-elect Marco Rubio but unlike potential 2012 rivals, he did not jump on the anti-establishment bandwagon. Nor did he gripe when Tea Party candidates like Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle won their primaries. Instead he wrote them big checks.
"Right now I want to make sure we are using all of our energy and all of our breath to focus on getting Republicans elected," he told Fox News. That's a position that could be just right for a 2012 general election run.
Watch “Special Report With Bret Baier” through Friday for the series “12 in 2012” -- profiles of potential GOP contenders for the White House.