SALT LAKE CITY — New pages in the not-so-secret life of Mitt Romney aren't easy to come by in his nearly two decades of being in the public eye, including two failed presidential runs, several books and a documentary film.
A campaign staffer says people don't know that the former Massachusetts governor is funny — in a dad-joke sort of way.
His stiff hair begs to differ. Romney's public persona doesn't exude jocularity.
But his friend Kirk Jowers says Romney can be funny because he's "so up to speed on current events and so clever that he really can say some hilarious things that are topical and that just hit it straight."
Jowers, a longtime Romney supporter, said everyone who worked on his presidential campaign regrets that that side of him never really came out or was covered enough for people to see.
Romney hasn't done anything during his U.S. Senate campaign to change that. He faces Democratic Salt Lake County Council member Jenny Wilson to replace retiring GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch. Constitution Party candidate Tim Aalders, Libertarian Craig R. Bowden and Independent American Reed C. McCandless are also on the ballot.
Asked to reveal something about himself that people might not know, Romney doesn't go to his apparently hidden sense of humor. He offers that he was an English major in college, acknowledging that, too, is in the public record. Consequently, he said, he loves to read and write.
Right now he's reading a C.J Box mystery novel, his bedtime "sleep candy." He's also into biographies. Currently, it's a tome on John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States.
Adams, Romney says, did a "most unusual thing" in that after serving a term as president, he was elected to the U.S. House from Massachusetts, "and he accomplished more as a congressman than he did as president."
That's not quite Romney's story. He fell short of winning the White House in 2012 and now wants to be a senator. He said he didn't dwell on the loss or try to figure where he could have scraped up a few more votes. He moved on and decided he didn't want to sit around, though at 71 he could have.
"I would have rather been president. I didn’t win that election, but I’m going to fight for the things I care about, and I believe I can make a difference for Utah and the for country," Romney said.
Ann Romney, his wife of 49 years, has been behind him, even nudging him along. She convinced him to take the job running the 2002 Winter Olympics.
"I always push Mitt into everything. It's like 'the poor guy,'" she said at campaign event earlier this year.
Her influence came into play in the decision to run for Senate.
"You just know what's right. I know this is going to be good. It's going to be good for Utah; it's going to be good for us," Ann Romney said.
A documentary titled "Mitt," which debuted at Sundance in 2014, chronicles Romney's 2008 and 2012 presidential bids, giving a glimpse into him and his family's life on the campaign trail. Romney initially resisted the idea of having cameras tag along, but his wife liked it.
Romney watched the film twice. He said he liked it the first time because he enjoyed seeing his family on the screen. He didn't like it the second time because of "the finish. I already knew what was there."
Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said his parents, George and Lenore Romney, his faith, and religious, political and business leaders have shaped his political philosophy. George Romney headed American Motors and served as governor of Michigan and ran for president in 1968.
At the core, he said, is that people are sons and daughters of God, and freedom is God-given.
"There is an effort afoot in the world to remove those freedoms and substitute government for freedom, not so much in our country but others," he said, listing Russia and China, as well as jihadists "hellbent" on replacing freedom with authoritarianism.
Romney, who graduated from BYU and moved to Holladay after the 2012 election, said his cultural and literal roots are in Utah. He is a descendant of Parley P. Pratt, an early leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and one of the first pioneers to reach the Salt Lake Valley.
If he wins the election, he said he would continue to live in Utah when the Senate isn't in session, though the 36-member Romney clan, including fives sons and daughters-in-law and 24 grandchildren, would continue to spend a week in August at Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.
Though he has campaigned since February, including a primary election, some voters still question where Romney stands with President Donald Trump.
At a recent campaign event in Orem, a woman asked, "I wonder when you go to Congress … are going to be a Never Trumper in Congress and be an obstructionist to the Trump agenda?"
"No," Romney replied flatly, before reciting his usual answer that he would support Trump when his policies are good for Utah and the country.
"If one expected you to do whatever the president wants, why, you wouldn't elect a senator. You'd say we'll just let the president do whatever he wants. But the president needs to listen to others and hear their concerns," he said
Allowing it might sound hyperbolic, Jowers said the Republican Party has never needed a defining voice like it needs now.
"President Trump has the Republican stage almost all to himself right now and will continue to be the dominant voice. But Mitt Romney is the one person with the national profile and media and even international interest that could at times amplify President Trump but at other times could provide a critically needed counterpoint," he said.
When a reporter suggested Romney could be like the late Sen. John McCain, Romney wasn't having it, saying no one could replace the Arizona Republican.
"I belive that I will speak my views as well from time to time. I don't think I'll be able to do what John McCain did," Romney said after a debate last week. "I will do my best for the people of our state."
Where he stands
Tighter border security, e-verify for employers and legal status for DACA "Dreamers" and that they "get in line" if they want citizenship.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid
Must preserve the programs for people in their late 50s and older but should consider raising the retirement age one or two years for younger people.
Republicans and Democrats must come together to ensure all American have access to health care and good health insurance and can't be denied for pre-existing conditions.
China and Russia pose the greatest longterm threat. Need to maintain strong defense to ensure U.S. stays ahead.
Opposes long-term, high tariffs but they can be used as negotiating tool to work out more fair deals.