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Mitt Romney

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On Tuesday, Mitt Romney will conclude a nearly six-year campaign journey for the White House — and his supporters, as Christopher Morris’ latest photo essay reveals, could not be more earnest or more ready. The former Massachusetts Governor launched his first presidential bid in February 2007, and his second in June, 2011 — now the polls are tight and battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Florida hang in the balance. Even though Hurricane Sandy disrupted the campaign flow in its final days, Republicans continue to hope that Romney’s earlier momentum and economic vision will win him the 270 electoral votes needed to take the oath of office in January.

Photojournalist Christopher Morris spent the last week of the campaign photographing Romney on the trail for TIME. He first photographed the Republican nominee back in the New Hampshire primary and has witnessed his journey to the upcoming finale. Last week he crisscrossed the country with the campaign, from Canton and Kettering, Ohio, to Tampa and Land O’Lakes, Fla.

Morris trains his lens on the voters rallying with great expectations to Romney’s side. Their anticipation and determination can almost be physically felt. Many politicos have summed this election up as two men and two parties with very different visions for America’s future, and Morris’ images capture just how deep this divide plunges. “I was a bit taken back by the strong division in the country, with a palpable disdain and hatred for President Obama by the crowds at the Romney events,” says Morris, who covered the George W. Bush’s two terms in the White House. “Having covered Gore, Kerry, Bush, and McCain, I’ve never quite seen it like this.”

Morris produced My America, a look at Republican nationalism in the country during George W. Bush’s terms. Later this month, Steidl will release Morris’ new book Americans, which further examines a nation in divide.

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and is represented by VII

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For years, TIME has created some of the most memorable campaign photography, from veteran political photographer Diana Walker’s coverage of five administrations to Christopher Morris’s eight years with President G.W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2008, the tradition continued with Callie Shell’s intimate documentation of Barack Obama’s campaign and eventual presidency.

This season, we looked for ways to continue the legacy of TIME’s political coverage during the 2012 elections — to jump start the traditional approaches to covering campaigns that are moving further and faster from the familiar political cycles of the past decade. We looked to commission photographers with fresh perspectives who could re-envision the spectrum of American politics.

The candidates kicked off their campaigns in Iowa, so we sent Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjork, known for his work photographing the ironic and often-absurd landscapes of suburbia, to document the caucuses. His first time covering American politics, Tunbjork photographed the strangeness of these early events in the frozen Iowa landscape.

We continued by commissioning work by Ricardo Cases, Lauren Fleishman, Justin Maxon, Brendan Hoffman, Lauren Lancaster and Peter van Agtmael — selecting each of them for their different visions as photographers. And each returned with photographs that reflected a diverse visual vocabulary looking beyond the political staging.

We also encouraged veteran political photographers like Christopher Morris, Brooks Kraft, Callie Shell, Andrew Cutraro and Danny Wilcox Frazier to experiment with their coverage. While on assignment, all noted how different the political landscape felt visually since the last election. After Obama’s first 100 days in office, the White House dramatically cut down on photographers’ access to the President, instead releasing images by Pete Souza on their own Flickr page.

The Romney campaign also carefully controlled photographers’ access this election, allowing very little intimacy with the candidate until the final weeks of the campaign, and then only rotating the traveling pool behind the scenes.

In the same way an undecided voter tries to see behind the political facade to judge the true character of the candidate they’ll vote for, our photographers too worked relentlessly to break down the constructed photo-ops and reveal to our readers a sliver of their personality.

The media dissected the Republican candidates one by one before a frontrunner finally emerged. As Mitt Romney became the GOP  frontrunner, we turned to photographers who could capture the candidate’s personal side. Lauren Fleishman documented him (along with running-mate Paul Ryan) for weeks on end, through ten different states. Fleishman’s photographs reflect the nuances of the conservative values shared by he and his wife, Ann.

As Obama started to step up his campaigning, we assigned Callie Shell to follow the President. Documenting his travels the week before the DNC, Shell showed readers a side to the President that had felt absent for a long time. A warm photo of Obama leaning against a high-school gymnasium’s wall before a rally made the cover of our magazine at the DNC the following week.

We’ve attempted to present readers with photographs that document a very specific time in our country’s history—a time where we face numerous worries and frustrations about America’s political future. Although this election may reveal how radically divided we are as a nation, the future will be the ultimate judge of how important this time of recovery continues to be. We hope to provide the lasting record.

Paul Moakley is the Deputy Photo Editor at TIME. 

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Photographer Peter Bohler reflects on his first time out on the campaign trail with Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan.

Photographing a candidate is a constant struggle for access, between the Secret Service and the Campaign Press Office, there were a myriad of unspoken rules that I was constantly trying to understand and follow. Often, I would set up for a great shot, only to be pulled away just as Congressman Ryan got close enough to photograph. Rarely would I be given a straight answer, or told what to expect.

Once I was ‘in the bubble’ as part of the traveling press, life on the road was seamless. We were shepherded swiftly from bus to tarmac to airplane and back again, with meals provided at every juncture. The photography would have been straightforward, had I been content to settle for the situations and angles that the press office arranged for us. Ryan’s speeches became routine, and his words would echo in my ears just before he said them. I learned to anticipate the resolute pursing of his lips and the humble look downward that would precede an impassioned defense of his American ideals.

On the last day of the shoot, the Campaign Press Contact grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away from the media pack and onto the Campaign bus. I hadn’t been told when I might get access to the bus, but I knew that if it happened it would happen suddenly, and I was ready. On the bus I was in a different world — it was the calm in the eye of the storm. Though we were in the center of the motorcade, it was easy to forget about the scores of police cars, the Secret Service, and the swarm of media that surrounded us.

The Ryan’s were surrounded by their family and friends, and laughed and talked easily. 7-year-old Sam crawled up and down the aisle of the bus — his favorite pass time. Soon Paul Ryan and I were talking about climbing mountains in Colorado. He was friendly, warm, curious and accommodating. No matter what you think of his politics, he possesses a compelling magnetism.

Peter Bohler is a Los Angeles-based documentary photographer and a recent contributor to TIME.

 

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Before there was Romney the presidential candidate, there was Romney the romantic. In this week’s cover story, Jon Meacham looks at how Romney’s identity was shaped by his Mormon roots. To illustrate this formative time in the presidential candidate’s life, we turned to a surprising photo found in the archives that shows the rarely-seen personal side of the candidate.

On a recent cover shoot I asked Romney about the image and found out that around 1968, while serving as a Mormon missionary in France, a young Mitt made several photographs with the help of his LDS friends. He described how the photo was taken,  explaining that it was playfully staged for his high school girlfriend and soon-to-be wife, Ann Davies. Romney revealed that the photo is actually one of a series made during his time abroad.

The pictoral gesture worked. Davies joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to marrying Romney in 1969, only months after Romney returned to the U.S. The pair later attended Brigham Young University before settling in Massachusetts, where they raised five sons together.

Paul Moakley is the Deputy photo editor of TIME. 

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Throughout the year, political pundits have obsessed over delegates, the people who come to the Republican National Convention from every state to vote for their party’s nominee. Before the convention, they were faceless numbers—prizes to be won in primaries. In Tampa, they’ve proven to be a diverse and enthusiastic cast of characters, coming from a wide variety of occupations and age groups.

We asked each one to tell us about the most vital issues at stake in this year’s election. Most are obsessed with the economy. Some are fixated on the country’s “moral decline.” And a rare few sport wardrobes worthy of the theater (or at least Halloween). Most delegates support Mitt Romney, but there are exceptions holding on to Ron Paul.

Photographer Grant Cornett roamed the convention center in Tampa, capturing members of each delegation. His portraits reveal a cross section of the people who make up the Grand Old Party of 2012.

Related: The DNC in Pictures: The Delegates by Grant Cornett

Katy Steinmetz is a reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau. In addition to working on features for TIME and TIME.com, she contributes to TIME’s Swampland, Healthland and NewsFeed blogs.

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Tropical Storm Isaac led organizers to cancel Monday’s lineup at the Republican National Convention, but protests in Tampa went ahead mostly as planned. Some protesters even camped out in the rain on a rented lot, dubbed “Romneyville.” Some met up with a larger group of several hundred activists and “Occupiers,” who marched one mile from Perry Harvey Park to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where Republican delegates are gathering this week. Hoisting placards and chanting slogans, protesters from as far as California registered their disapproval of the GOP ticket throughout the day. Security was intense. Photographer Grant Cornett was on scene to capture the scene.

Adam Sorensen is an Associate Editor at TIME covering politics.

Grant Cornett is a New York City-based photographer. LightBox previously featured his photography in Beautiful Decay.

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