On January 24, Netflix premiered Mitt a documentary that followed Mitt Romney from 2006, when he was trying to decide whether or not to run for President, to the crushing loss of the 2012 election.
The filmmaker, Greg Whiteley, connected with Tagg Romney in 2006 when he heard that the former governor of Massachusetts was considering a run for President and pitched the idea to Tagg and Ann Romney before asking Mitt if he was willing to do it. Tagg and Ann thought it was a great idea, but Mitt didn’t like the idea at first–but Tagg told Whiteley to just “show up” at the Romney family gathering in Park City, Utah on Christmas Eve in hopes that Mitt could be won over. So Whiteley, along with his family, packed up the car and drove to Park City and knocked on the Romney’s front door. Mitt answered the door, looked at Whiteley, and rolled his eyes–but let him come in.
For the next 6 years, Whiteley had unprecedented access to the Romney family and campaign. During that time, Whiteley was able to capture some incredible moments and give us a behind the scenes look at a major political campaign. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to watch Mitt, but I could never have imagined the deep impact it would have on me.
The film begins on election night 2012 with Mitt asking, “So what do you think you say in a concession speech?” The camera captures the disappointment and despair on the faces of the Romney family as they sit there in disbelief. The movie then quickly moves back in time to Park City 2006, the Romney family is seen sitting together while Mitt writes on a legal pad as he asks his family for reasons why he should or should not run for President. The film then follows the Romney’s from one campaign stop to the next, showing the ups and downs, joys and disappointments of life on the campaign trail.
Some of the more interesting moments of the film came with Mitt’s reaction to the “flipping Mormon” label that stuck so well during the 2008 primary. Referring to how he is portrayed in the media he says, “The flippin Mormon. You can’t change your stump speech? That’s a flip flop? Is there some way we can say stop buying the dog food being shipped from McCain?” Another disheartening moment for Romney came in 2008 when Gov. Charlie Crist, who had promised Romney he wouldn’t endorse a specific candidate, came out in support of McCain. Mitt can be seen sitting with his head hanging down as he hears the news about Crist’s endorsement knowing that this change would cost him Florida and likely the primary.
The more poignant moments of the film, for me, came during Mitt’s interaction with his family. The family would often pray together before campaign events and debates, asking God for blessings and guidance. The film also showed the loving relationship that Mitt shared with his grandchildren. How can you not like a man who jumps around in the snow with his grandchildren and acts genuinely excited to see them every time they walked through the door? The film also showed the visible love and connection that Mitt and Ann still shared after 40 plus years of marriage.
Above all else the film showed Romney’s humanity and humility – a side that most of us had never seen. The shots of him cleaning when he was stressed, ironing his own shirt before an event, and seeming to worry more about his family and supporter’s disappointment in his losses than his own disappointment all showed his humanity in a way no campaign manager had ever been able to do during the election. He would also often talk about his father, George Romney, and how he had started at the bottom and climbed his way to the top and that the only way he, Mitt, had been able to accomplish what he had accomplished was thanks to his father. The thing that surprised me the most was that Mitt didn’t run for President to be powerful or top off his career – he ran because he felt like he could turn the country around and felt like it was his duty as a citizen.
After the film ended, I sat, for longer than I would like to admit, contemplating how different life would be if we had elected Mitt Romney for President instead of Barack Obama. I also sat and thought about the “what if” to as far back as 2008. What if we had not been duped into voting for John McCain? Could Romney have beat Obama the first time around? I also felt shame, as a political blogger, for having attacked Mitt for his flip flopping ways in hopes that my candidate would win the primary in 2012. Although, I was able to salvage some of my shame by remembering that I had, in fact, voted for him in the 2008 primary over John McCain. Most of all, though, this film made me question who to believe. I had been so convinced in 2012 that I had to plug my nose and vote for the candidate who, although better than Obama, was the sub par candidate, however, after watching this film I realized Mitt Romney was the best candidate.
For anyone who wants to see the real side of Mitt Romney and doesn’t mind coming away with a great deal of sadness – I would highly recommend this film. I would also recommend, in the future, questioning everything that is force fed to us about our political candidates because in a political campaign perception is everything but truth is harder to come by.