- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 29, 2012

TAMPA, Fla. — During what may be the most important week of Mitt Romney’s political career, the Republican presidential contender’s five sons are sharing family secrets like never before.

They are calling their father “cheap” on national television. They’re spilling stories about plane-sick children. And when the cameras are not rolling, they are raising money and giving emotional support to the man who raised them but may need their help now more than ever.

The Romney boys are not exactly boys any more. They range in age from 31 to 42, with 18 grandchildren among them. And during the week that the nation tunes into the Republican National Convention, the unofficial starting line for the 70-day sprint to Election Day, the Romney sons want America to know their father like they do.

“We will do anything that the campaign asks us to,” eldest son Tagg said in an interview with the Associated Press.

In total, the Romney sons have done about 100 individual media interviews this week. It’s an all-out media blitz featuring group interviews with late-night comedians, television network anchors and just about everyone with a camera or tape recorder in between.

They tell the story of a practical-joking father, an affectionate husband and a supportive grandfather. It’s a side of the Republican businessman that many voters have never seen and that his advisers want the country to know better. His campaign knows President Obama remains personally popular despite the nation’s struggling economy. And that could be a key factor in a close election.

“For voters who take voting for president very personally, [the Romney sons] offer an expansive window into who he is and what makes him tick,” said Romney aide Kevin Madden. “This is a person that’s really taught them values, taught them a lot of life lessons. And I think that’s important for a lot of voters. They don’t always get to see that.”

Indeed, voters were not with the elder Mr. Romney on his Tuesday flight from Boston to Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, when his 8-year-old grandson was sick a few seats behind him. They did not see a messy-haired grandfather climb out of bed to hold a 3-month-old crying baby at his New Hampshire summer home last week. Nor were they inside Mr. Romney’s convention hotel room Tuesday afternoon when the 65-year-old father privately reflected on “the largeness of the moment” with Tagg, Tagg’s wife and two sons.

“This is a week where we’re telling the story about who my dad is and what he believes in,” Tagg said after sharing the personal moments. “We probably know him better than anybody else.”

Mr. Romney will be surrounded by family before and after his Thursday night speech. His wife, Ann, played her biggest role yet Tuesday night, with her prime-time speech focused on family.

“I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a storybook marriage,” she told the convention. “Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once.”

All five Romney sons — Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben and Craig — watched their mother speak from the convention hall. Tall and photogenic, each married in his 20s and all have wives who are stay-at-home moms. Three of the sons work in real estate, one is in private equity and the fifth is finishing his medical residency.

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