He worked to shed his buttoned-up image by wearing more casual attire, such as jeans, sneakers and shirts with the sleeves rolled up. Facing a weak Republican field, his campaign's rallying cry became "leaner and meaner." He hired a smaller staff and listened to fewer consultants. He stockpiled tons of cash and an outside super political action committee made up of former staffers did the same. He focused his pitch on the economy and defeating Barack Obama. And he walked a careful line between presenting himself as acceptable to the tea party — a new insurgent group — and catering to it.
Starting in Iowa, Romney and his allies eviscerated his rivals — particularly former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — on TV, burying them in negative ads. Romney was briefly announced the victor by a narrow margin before the Iowa GOP reversed course and declared former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum the winner. But by that point, Romney had cruised to victory in next-up New Hampshire. Gingrich then rose in South Carolina, shellacking Romney after casting him as a job-killer. Then came Florida, and Romney easily overtook the competition.
He clinched the nomination months later, then quickly set his sights on his next goal: defeating Obama.
Now Romney stands at the precipice of formally becoming the party's standard-bearer, and possibly the country's next president.
It's that image that first flashed in Healey's mind after her meeting with Romney a decade ago. By the time she left, Healey — who would become Romney's lieutenant governor — couldn't help but agree with the whispers that had already begun about his future.
Says Healey: "I had no doubt on my first meeting with him that he had the potential to be the president of the United States."
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