5. Mitt Romney (2008 and 2012, Republican)
Willard Mitt Romney, son of Michigan Governor George W. Romney, graduated with honors from Brigham Young University in 1971. Four years later, he graduated from a joint JD/MBA program from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School.
After finishing college, Mitt went to work for The Boston Consulting Group, where he had worked as an intern. From 1978 to 1984, he served as vice president of Bain & Company, Inc., another local consulting firm. He eventually left to co-found Bain Capital—a private equity investment firm.
Romney left his lucrative job in 1998 when he was asked to assume leadership as president and CEO of the troubled 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games Organizing Committee, which was riddled with corruption and had fallen $379 million short of its revenue benchmarks. He immediately worked to raise money and cut costs. During his Olympic leadership, Romney not only filled the $379 million gap, but he generated nearly a $100 million surplus. He would also personally contribute one million dollars to the Olympics and donate his $825,000 salary to charity.
Later in 2002, Romney made waves in the heavily Democratic state of Massachusetts when he was elected the 70th governor of the state. He served one term and did not seek re-election. By this time, his sites were set on a loftier goal: the White House.
When Romney announced his presidential candidacy in 2007, he was immediately bombarded with questions about the Church, and it became one of his biggest obstacles on his path to the White House. In response to relentless inquiries, Romney eventually chose to address concerns about how the Church would influence his role as president of the United States.
In what could be described as the most defining moment of his first presidential run, Romney delivered a powerful speech on December 6, 2007, entitled “Faith in America.” In the speech, he made reference to John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech in which Kennedy had to address concerns about his religion. And while assuring Americans that he did not confuse religion and politics as governor of Massachusetts and would not do so as president, he made it clear that he would not distance himself from his religious beliefs. He said, “I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers—I will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.”
Although he stated his belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world, he did not elaborate on Latter-day Saint doctrine. He stated, “There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president, he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”
Romney lost the Republican nomination to Senator John McCain of Arizona, who would lose the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama.
No other presidential candidate in the 2008 presidential race was asked to defend or clarify his religious beliefs to the same extent as Romney, and when he made his second bid for the presidency, this time winning the Republican nomination in 2012, he continued to defend his statement that he would not become a spokesman for the Church. When asked by CNN in June of that year, “What is the Mormon position on homosexuality being a sin?” Romney responded, “I’m not a spokesman for my church. And one thing I’m not going to do in running for president is become a spokesman for my church or apply a religious test that is simply forbidden by the constitution.” He continued, “If you want to learn about my church, talk to my church.”
Despite his best efforts, Romney lost the 2012 presidential election to President Barack Obama. Romney received 47 percent of the popular vote and 206 electoral votes to Obama’s 51 percent of the popular vote and 332 electoral votes.