Sept. 21, 2011— -- For Mitt Romney, political inspiration was never hard to find.
Born March 12, 1947, Romney was the son of two politically active parents. His father, George Romney, was a three-term governor of Michigan who also ran for president in 1968, and his mother, Lenore Romney, ran for Senate in Michigan in 1970.
Romney was raised, the youngest of the couple's four children, in Bloomfield, Mich. He later attended Stanford for a year before traveling to France to do a 30-month tour as a Morman missionary. While in France, Romney was given a deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War because of his work on the mission.
After his mission, Romney returned to the United States and transferred to Brigham Young University in Provo Utah, where he graduated as valedictorian in 1971. He married his high-school girlfriend, Ann Davies, in March 1968 at her family's home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. The next day, the couple participated in a traditional Mormon marriage ceremony at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. The couple had their first child in 1970 and today boast of a family of five sons, five daughters-in-law and 16 grandchildren.
After graduating with degrees in law and business administration from Harvard in 1975, Romney began working at Bain and Co., a Boston-based consulting firm. In 1984, when founder Bill Bain decided to spin off a related private equity firm, he tapped Romney to serve as CEO and co-founder.
Through his work at Bain Capital, Romney made much of his fortune, now estimated between $190 million and $250 million. In 1990, Romney returned to struggling Bain and Co. as CEO and was able to get the company back on track.After his successes in the private sector, Romney took his first foray into politics in 1994, challenging incumbent Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., for the Senate seat he had held since shortly after Kennedy's brother, John F. Kennedy, ascended to the White House.
Running as a moderate Republican in favor of abortion rights and supportive of gay rights, Romney gave Kennedy the closest re-election race of his long career. But Romney still fell considerably short, and he returned to his work at Bain and Co.
In 1998, Romney was tapped to run the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics after scandal left the games on the brink of disaster. The challenge of the games was confounded after the events of 9/11 complicated security precautions. But Romney and his team re-evaluated budgets, attracted new donors and pulled off a successful Winter Games, as documented in his 2004 book, "Turnaround."
Romney, 64, parleyed his Olympic turn into a successful return to Massachusetts politics, winning the gubernatorial race in 2002 after the unpopular Republican incumbent, Jane Swift, bowed out of the race.
Under Romney's leadership, Massachusetts enacted a universal health care bill, a first-in-the-nation attempt to provide coverage to all the state's residents. The Bay State also addressed the controversial issues of gay marriage and stem-cell research, putting a spotlight on Romney's stance on social issues.
He campaigned in 1994 and 2002 as a supporter of the abortion-rights ruling Roe v. Wade. But, in late 2004, midway through his term, Romney changed his views on the issue of abortion. He now says he is anti-abortion.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that homosexual couples legally had the right to marry under state law. Romney actively, although unsuccessfully, campaigned for a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling, but he stepped in where he could to limit its reach: He chose to enforce a 1913 law that prevented couples from marrying in Massachusetts who could not legally be married in their home states.
Romney decided against running for re-election in 2006 and formally announced his first bid for the White House in February 13, 2007. But despite raising nearly $90 million for his campaign -- $35 million of which came from his own pocket -- Romney's presidential bid came to a halt in February 2008, after a disappointing second-place finish behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses. Sen. John McCain of Arizona ended up winning the party's nomination.
But in April 2011, Romney announced he had formally launched his 2012 presidential exploratory committee in a Web video in which he declared, "President Obama's policies have failed."
In June 2011, on a farm in Stratham, N.H., Romney officially launched his campaign flanked by hay bales and a larger-than-life U.S. flag, declaring, President Obama "has had his chance."