Arguably, Obama and Romney see the world pretty much the same way — in very many ways. They have at least a dozen data points in common:
1) Neither man served in the armed forces. This would be the first election without a veteran representing a major party in the race since 1944.
2) Both Obama and Romney hail from far-flung family histories. Obama’s father was born in Kenya; his mother in Kansas. Romney’s father was born in Mexico; his mother in Utah.
3) Both men operate from out-of-the-norm religious backgrounds. Obama, the Christian son of a Muslim father, says that his faith guides his decision-making; Romney is the Mormon son of a Mormon father. Both religious upbringings can elicit prejudice.
4) Both men earned degrees at Harvard University. Romney spent four years among the ivied towers, graduating in 1975 with a joint degree in law and business. Obama spent three years in Cambridge, graduating from Harvard Law School in 1991.
5) Both men worked in the financial sector. In 1983, Obama took a job at Business International Corp., a New York-based multinational business counseling firm, as a researcher in the financial services division. “He wasn’t there long — only about a year,” NPR’s Scott Horsley reported in 2008. “But the job at Business International Corp. provided a crash course in market economics.” Both politicians have been heavily funded by Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg reports.
Romney migrated from the banks of the Charles River to the banking world of Bain Capital, a private equity firm. “What Bain Capital did — and was among the first, if not the first, to do it — was to look at the operations before buying the company, as well as after,” Romney told NPR’s Ari Shapiro in 2011, “and try to figure out, how can we make it better and then help the management team to improve the company.”
6) Both served, for a time, as advisers to their communities: Obama as a community organizer in Chicago; Romney as a bishop — a spiritual lay leader — in the Boston area.
7) Each man lost his first federal election. Romney lost to incumbent Ted Kennedy in a 1994 Massachusetts senatorial contest; Obama lost to incumbent Bobby Rush in a 2000 Illinois House of Representatives election.
8) Both men have championed comprehensive health care initiatives. Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts and Obama as president. “Romneycare and Obamacare are essentially the same,” Gingrich told ABC News.
9) Both Obama and Romney stay fit, dress sharply and look vaguely out of sync when wearing blue jeans.
10) Both occasionally laugh uncomfortably at their own humor.
11) Both have been known to lapse into song during public speaking.
12) Both are political pragmatists. “This presidential election tells us something unexpected about American politics,” writes presidential historian Julian Zelizer on CNN.com. “For all the talk about polarization and discord in Washington, it appears that both parties will have pragmatic problem-solvers at the top of their tickets.”