Reluctant candidates not unusual, experts say

By Nkoyo Iyamba | Posted - Dec 24th, 2012 @ 7:49am

SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney did not want to be U.S. president anyway. That's the message his oldest son, Tagg Romney, told the Boston Globe Sunday.

Whether the Romney campaign is trying to "save face" in a campaign postmortem or whether the statement is true, being a reluctant candidate is not unusual.

"Some people seek the presidency out of a sense of duty or obligation, a patriotic commitment," said Utah State University Political Science professor Michael Lyons, PhD.

"It certainly would be historic to be the first LDS president, just as it was historic for John Kennedy to be the first Catholic president and Barack Obama to be the first African American president," said Lyons.

Tagg Romney told the Boston paper, "He (Mitt Romney) wanted to be president less than anyone I've met in my life."

Tagg Romney also said of his father, "He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them." He continued, "He doesn't love the attention."

Lyons is not surprised. He said the rigors of campaigning can be traumatic for political candidates.

He (Mitt Romney) wanted to be president less than anyone I've met in my life.

–Tagg Romney

"I can understand why his father being an introverted kind of person and being a business man would be uncomfortable with many aspects of electoral politics," he said.

Still, political analysts note that Mitt Romney ran two presidential campaigns, so on some level he wanted to be commander in chief.

"You can want the office and yet not entirely want it simultaneously," said Lyons.

Lyons interprets President Barack Obama's performance in the first presidential debate against Mitt Romney as a sign he was worn down by the presidency and worn down by campaigning. This is a common theme for some past presidential candidates.

"George Bush back in 1992, half-heartedly seeking a second term, at one point looked at his watch in a debate with Bill Clinton," Lyons said.

Lyons also said in political literature, analysts have written about candidates hoping to fulfill a father's dream -- another common theme among reluctant candidates.

Trying to understand the motives for those running for political office is complex, according to Lyons. These candidates are often extremely talented and have a high level of ambition.

"There's vast literature trying to explain the ambitions of people who seek higher office," said Lyons.

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