Josh Romney stumps for dad in Tri-Cities (w/ gallery)

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 22, 2012 

KENNEWICK -- The last time Kristen Jenson of Richland saw Josh Romney, he was just 1 and she was baby-sitting him and his older brothers, she said Tuesday after meeting him again as he campaigned for his father in Kennewick.

Josh Romney, 36, visited the Tri-Cities, urging about 130 people who attended the event at the Country Gentleman restaurant to show up at the Washington caucuses March 3 to support his father, Mitt Romney, for the Republican nomination for president.

"A small group can have tremendous power," said Josh Romney, the third of Mitt Romney's five sons, as he encouraged people to recruit others to support his father at the caucuses.

He didn't mention any of the other candidates for the Republican nomination by name, but had plenty to say about President Obama.

Beating Obama is one of two key issues for voters to consider, he said, and Mitt Romney's the candidate who makes the Obama campaign the most nervous, he said.

"We're going to win the nomination," he said, before he was interrupted by applause. "Then we are going to make him face his record."

Obama's a good speaker, but he never has had to run on his record until now, he said.

Until Obama was president, he had never led anything -- and that's terrifying, Josh Romney said. The nation has had a chance to see the result in the past three years, and if Obama is allowed to continue, he will lead the United States down the same path as Greece, to economic crisis, he said.

The second key issue for voters to consider is the economy, including high rates of unemployment and underemployment, Josh Romney said. His father has a track record of stepping in to turn Bain Capital around as it faced financial ruin and turning a projected deficit in Massachusetts into a surplus in his term as governor.

Mitt Romney made headlines in December when he proposed a $10,000 bet during a Republican debate. But Josh Romney said his family knows him as notoriously thrifty. As a child, he learned to ask his mother for money to see a movie rather than his father, Josh Romney said.

When Jenson was serving as an occasional baby sitter for the Romneys in Massachusetts, she knew the family was wealthy, while her own family was struggling financially.

But Mitt and Ann Romney "never treated me differently," she said. "They treated me with respect, appreciation and kindness."

She knew him as a fellow member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and said during his time as bishop, a position that requires a church member to donate much of his time, he would have worked with people in desperate economic situations.

When Jenson was baby-sitting for the Romneys, Mitt Romney was attending a joint Harvard law and business school program. She remembers him saying that he was going to take his law degree and go into business because "every businessman needs to know the law."

"I think Mitt Romney can totally turn the economy around," she said. "This guy is energized by problems."

Many others at the Kennewick event said they supported Romney because of his fiscal policies and business background. But just as often supporters mentioned his character.

"He's the most honest," said Milton Petersen of Richland.

"I think he brings the kind of temperament and experience we need," said Kent Madsen of Richland.

"I think he's a man of integrity," said Mindy Christensen of Othello. "He says what he means and does what he says."

Josh Romney passed on questions about federal money for the Hanford nuclear reservation during questioning by Tri-City reporters.

But he said the many workers in the Tri-Cities who depend on paychecks from the federal government should vote for Mitt Romney, because the fiscal path the nation is now on is not sustainable for government workers or people in the private sector.

Workers in agriculture industries -- another linchpin of the Tri-City economy -- should also vote for Mitt Romney because he knows the West and understands its issues better than other candidates, his son said.

Mitt Romney spent a summer working at his uncle's King City, Idaho, ranch and also organized the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah as head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

Mitt Romney is expected to visit Washington on March 1, but campaign stops have not been announced. Candidate Newt Gingrich plan to visit Kennewick on Thursday, and Ron Paul was in Richland last week, drawing a crowd of about 1,500.

Republican candidates are focusing on Washington as it prepares to hold the last caucus or primary before Super Tuesday on March 6 when 10 states will hold contests.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com

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