With the race for the Republican Presidential nomination now seemingly down to two candidates – Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney – suddenly Romney is in the uncharacteristic role of underdog.
Astonishingly (to me), polls show Gingrich some 10 points ahead of Romney in the upcoming Iowa primary; 8.6 points ahead in South Carolina; 16.5 ahead in Florida. In New Hampshire. Romney leads by 16.5 points. Nationally, Real Clear Politics has Gingrich leading Romney by 6.2 points.
Of course, all this may change by next summer, but it’s still puzzling to those who wonder how Gingrich can be a serious contender with the baggage he carries, including condemnation for unethical behaviour and lying.
Apart from being impressed with what seems a class act by Mitt Romney, I have fond memories of his father. George Romney was CEO of American Motors, Governor of Michigan, and a Republican candidate for President in 1968, but was edged by Richard Nixon.
Here’s why I have warm feelings about Romney.
In 1954, after being discharged from the army, I had gone back to the University of B.C. to complete the final year for a degree. Tuition was paid by Veterans Affair, and residence at Acadia Camp consumed the $60 a month I got in allowances. I had saved enough to buy a car – $1,500 for a snappy, new, two-seat Nash Metropolitan convertible, made by American Motors.
I was delighted with the car. The first I’d owned since buying a 1934 Chev Roadster as a teenager during the war ($75), and before that a 1927 McLaughlin Buick ($25).
After a month, I noticed the panel inside the left door of the Metropolitan had come unstuck. I went back to the dealer, who said the warranty didn’t cover the inside door panel, and tough bananas kid.
It was around the time when I’d written a letter to J. Edgar Hoover, enquiring about becoming an FBI agent. I got a gracious response from that strange man (whose foibles weren’t well known in those days) brushing me off, and suggesting the RCMP.
His courteous response persuaded me to write to George Romney, then CEO of American Motors in Detroit. I explained in the letter that I had returned from the Korean war, that I was back to school, that I didn’t have much money but really admired the Metropolitan I’d purchased, but that the door paneling was defective and the car company said the warranty didn’t cover such damage.
I wrote that I didn’t think he, Mr. Romney, would want a customer treated as I had been treated. I didn’t blame him if he couldn’t do anything. I was still an admirer of American Motors products. I just wanted him to know a poor student’s plight.
A couple of weeks later, I got a message to phone the car dealer.
The car dealer had heard from Detroit, and not only was the whole businesses a misunderstanding but they wanted to repair my car, and would I accept a courtesy car as replacement until mine was fit to return — and don’t worry, keep it as long as is convenient. So sorry for the misunderstanding!
I was dazzled. I kept the courtesy for a week, and the Metropolitan was returned – with a full tank of gasoline too!
Is it any wonder I wanted Romney to win the 1968 Republican nomination?
And now his son is after the job. Being his father’s son is good enough for me – even though the Nash Metropolitan is long gone, now replaced by a Subaru.