DENVER Through twenty debates during the long Republican primary season, Mitt Romney's family had two secret weapons to keep him grounded on game day: movies and milkshakes.
On Wednesday, his sons plan to keep the tradition going. Four of his five sons will join him as he hunkers down at the Renaissance Denver Hotel, armed with their best weapons to keep him focused on family fun, not the evening's impending fistfight.
Eldest son Tagg anticipates ensuring his health-conscious dad has a rare chocolate molten milkshake - his favorite - and while Romney may not be able to sneak out to the cinema, which he liked to do during the primaries, sons Josh and Craig have been tasked with bringing funny YouTube videos to keep their father amused.
Matt Romney is bringing an added bonus - his four kids - who have been out on the trail with Ann Romney for the days leading up to the debate. Tagg Romney is leaving his six children at home, but is packing letters from his brood, with messages like "We love you" and "We know you'll do great." (Out of the Romneys 18 grandchildren, Tagg's, who live in Massachusetts, have seen the most of their grandfather as he has been sneaking over to their house during prep breaks over the last couple of weeks. "I show up at my house and there's 18 guys in dark suits crawling up on my lawn, and its like, Oh, dad's here," Tagg noted.)
Don't expect Mitt Romney to be decked out in any flashy new garb for the debate; during the primaries, he wore a rotation of the same suits and ties (one of his regulars bore mini lacrosse sticks) religiously . Ann's attire, however, has become more notable at high-profile events of late, donning Oscar De La Renta and Alfred Fiandaca while in Tampa for the Republican National Convention, for instance.
Her sons may not be as high-fashion minded but they are pop-culturally mindful. After a "Saturday Night Live" skit last season ribbed at the tantamount nature of all five of their wardrobes, spoofing them all in khakis and blazers, Tagg laments that this is not that far from the truth, and they will have to eye each others' ensembles before heading over to the debate hall. "We can't all wear khakis and blue shirts... I usually do wear blue shirts usually, but so do they, and then when we're heading over, one of us has to go back and change," Tagg said.
Before heading over to the University of Denver, the debate venue, the gang will also take a private moment to pray together. One of the sons says that they have done this together before all of the debates, but they don't pray for their father to flat out win. Instead, they focus on thanking God for what they have been given, and hope that Romney is able to "be who he is."
This tenet of allowing Mitt's sense of self to transfer to a broader audience is one that he always instilled in his sons as well. None of the Romney sons were ever on debate teams or the like as youngsters, but they did have experience in public speaking from a young age: talking from their Mormon church pulpits. Tagg says that his father always passed along two pieces of advice: "Slow down - no matter how slow you think you're going. And be yourself."
During 90 minutes on stage Wednesday night, the Romney children expect to see their father take his own advice.