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Platform of family values on full display

Any of them could win in Iowa: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards among the Democrats; Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee among Republicans. In hundreds of campaign appearances and thousands of television ads, they have tried to build rounded images of themselves and how they would govern. But their campaigns contain several central propositions. Below are some of the primary arguments that the Iowa front-runners are making for themselves.

January 03, 2008|Michael Finnegan

DES MOINES — In the final days of his Iowa campaign, Mitt Romney has projected a "Leave It to Beaver" image of family perfection, showcasing his wife, Ann, and combinations of their five grown sons and 11 grandchildren.

"Ann and I won't embarrass you in the White House," the Republican told invited guests here at a New Year's Day house party. "We'll do our best to be an example of a good family with a loving mom and dad."

The party was one of six where Romney spoke that day, each time at a big house in a prosperous snow-covered suburb of Des Moines. At each house, Romney stood in front of a fireplace, cracked a joke about his baby grandson, Parker, and introduced the boy's father, Craig Romney. The candidate's tone was unwaveringly upbeat.

"Where did Mary go?" he called out cheerfully at a party in Ankeny, when it came time to thank the hostess. "She's probably cleaning."

It is part of an effort by Romney, a Mormon whose faith has raised suspicions among evangelical Christians, to show himself as a staunch conservative.

Critics dismiss the wholesome imagery as largely fake. They question the timing of his rightward shifts on abortion and other issues at the start of his bid for the nomination.

In his Iowa campaign, Romney talked of fiscal restraint and military strength. But with Mike Huckabee, his top Republican rival in Iowa, drawing strong support from evangelicals, he has concentrated most recently on a values pitch. At the house parties, he called Americans patriotic, God-fearing and family-oriented.

"It's not just our land and the beauty of the mountains and the fruited plains," he told guests gathered around the fireplace in the Ankeny home of Mary and Rick Hermann. "It is the heart of our people, the American people with heartland values."

To strengthen families, Romney said, he would improve schools and expand access to healthcare. He also vowed to use the White House bully pulpit to promote traditional values. "I want to make sure our kids know as they're growing up that before they have babies, they should get married," he said, "and that marriage is between a man and a woman."

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