A lengthy record, including a stint as governor of Massachusetts and executive director of the U.S. Olympic committee for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, can be a blessing and a curse for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Romney, trying another pass at the party's brass ring after failing to grab it in 2008, "knows how to present himself as a candidate" and can avoid organizational pitfalls, said political observer Steven Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
His track record in 2008 should be a "blessing," Schier said, because even though he bowed to Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the party presidential sweepstakes, Romney "has been in the public eye for some time."
And Romney "has a presidential demeanor," he said.
As a candidate, he can appeal to moderate and independent voters because he "appears to be the most electable" next year, Schier said.
But that long record also can bite.
Opponents and critics link Massachusetts' near universal health insurance coverage plan enacted after he was elected governor in 2002, to "Obamacare," and because he has become more conservative over the years concerning abortion and other social issues, the derisive "flip-flop" label has been hurled in recent party debates.
So, "while he has considerable support, he's not a front-runner," Schier said.
A recent RealClearPolitics.com aggregate of polls bears this out: Romney has an average of 21.5 percent compared to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's 27.7 percent.
However, 43 percent of voters in a Rasmussen Reports survey last week indicated they thought Romney was qualified to run the White House in 2012 while 28 percent disagreed. And several other polls showed Romney ahead of Perry.
What could hold him back from making an acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, however, would be "enough conservatives who suspect he's not a reliable conservative," Schier said.
If Romney doesn't secure the party nod, "he moves on to other pursuits," Schier predicted.
Romney, born in a Detroit suburb, graduated from Brigham Young University and completed law and business degrees in four years at Harvard before beginning his swift climb up the corporate ladder. He and wife Ann have five children.
Romney entered the management consultant arena in 1977 with Boston-based Bain & Co., where he eventually served as its chief executive officer. He also co-founded and led the spin-off, Bain Capital, a private equity investment firm.
He waged an unsuccessful challenge to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in the 1994 U.S. Senate election.
Romney also organized and steered the 2002 Winter Olympics as president and chief executive officer of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
Romney, a Mormon, sought during his 2008 bid to assuage voter concerns about his faith would influence his presidency, much as President John Kennedy, a Catholic, did in the 1960s.
"If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion," Romney said during a December 2007 speech in Texas. "A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."
This time around, Romney has caught flack for not signing conservative-backed pledges, oftentimes saying on the stump the only pledges he recognizes are the ones to his wife and to the United States.
Despite being eyed with suspicion by the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, Romney hasn't shown an inclination to walk away from more moderate positions.
During U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint's Palmetto Freedom Forum on Labor Day, for example, Romney stressed his support for overturning Roe vs. Wade, which recognized a woman's right to an abortion, but said using a 14th Amendment interpretation to ban abortion was not a good idea.
"Could that happen in this country? Could there be circumstances? I think it's reasonable that something of that nature might happen someday, but that's not something I would precipitate," he said. "I believe that we must be a nation of laws, and I believe in supporting the Constitution as I understand it, but I'm not looking to create a constitutional crisis."
During that same forum, he also called for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, but said not all of its provisions or regulations inherently were bad.
"It's not that we don't want any regulation. We don't want to tell the world Republicans are against all regulation," he said. "Regulation is necessary to make a free market work. But it has to be updated and modern."
Romney also has pounced on Perry for his statements about Social Security -- Perry has called it a "Ponzi scheme" and a "monstrous lie" -- saying it isn't a Ponzi scheme but is financially out of control and needs reform.
"Are we going to have to change it down the road?" Romney asked on the stump on Florida. "Yeah."
Not that Romney hasn't tripped up.
He's has his "corporations are people too" response made to a heckler at the Iowa State Fair.
While on a campaign stop in Keene, N.H., Romney said he'd make sure taxes on employers were competitive with other nations, the Boston Globe reported.
"Corporations, they're made up of people," Romney said, referring his earlier comments. "Just a group of people who come together for work. When you say tax corporations, steel, vinyl, concrete, they don't pay taxes. Only people do. High taxes on corporations are high taxes on people and they'll go elsewhere if taxes are too high."
Romney is as cautious as Perry is spontaneous, presenting Republican voters stark contrasts, The Washington Post recently reported.
"In every single possible way, they come from different worlds," said veteran Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, who advised Romney in his 2008 race but is unaffiliated in the 2012 race. "You can see the playbook pretty clearly here: It's populist against patrician. It's rural Texas steel against unflappable Romney coolness, conservative versus center-right establishment, Texas strength versus Romney's imperturbability, Perry's simplicity versus Romney's flexibility."