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RTE Television

The Choice

Rarely in American politics have voters been offered two presidential candidates more different than Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Just how different is the subject of The Choice 2012, FRONTLINE's quadrennial biography of the two presidential candidates.

As the candidates spend hundreds of millions of dollars to tell their own stories, FRONTLINE's top political reporting team spent the last year gathering the rest of the story. More than 100 in-depth interviews with friends, family, authors, and journalists contribute to the most ambitious television biographies of the candidates ever created. To get the whole story, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk and his award-winning team take a fresh, contemporary look at the candidates' lives and their political histories.

The Choice 2012 intimately follows the odyssey of young Barry Obama from near-poverty in Indonesia to his marijuana-smoking "Choom Gang" days in Hawaii, then to college in California and New York, where he moved inexorably toward finding a home in Chicago's black community.

Consumed by youthful angst, Obama's own journals and letters reveal a confused young man on an identity quest. By the end of his journey, Barry becomes Barack, and a political method is born.

Mitt Romney grew up in an entirely different milieu, in a childhood defined by stability. The son of a powerful automobile executive and moderate Republican governor, young Mitt lived a privileged life of private schools and carefully guarded ideas.

A Mormon, Romney spent more than two years as a missionary in France, fulfilling his obligation to the church while trying to complete the Sisyphean task of making abstinence from alcohol palatable in Bordeaux, of all places. While Mitt didn't make many converts on his mission, friends and family say that after almost dying in an automobile accident, he was reborn as a more serious man with a strong faith and a belief in his own life's purpose.

Despite his success in business, Romney believed his destiny was in politics. He would eventually sell himself and his evolving political identity to voters. Lengthy interviews with family, close friends, colleagues, and political associates reveal a fuller picture of the real Mitt Romney.

The Choice 2012 also probes the divergent leadership styles of Obama and Romney, focusing on the signature achievement of both men: health care reform. FRONTLINE investigates their approaches to this hot-button issue and what those approaches tell us about how they govern. The film also explores how, while in office, both men were confronted with a reluctant legislature dominated by political opponents. How they each handled that situation reveals much about their distinct political styles.

More than 100 interviews, hundreds of hours of historical footage, and the complete archives of both candidates contribute to FRONTLINE'S meticulous reporting during this eye-opening, provocative two-hour documentary. The film is produced by the investigative team that delivered two hours of the epic economy miniseries Money, Power and Wall Street (2012), The Anthrax Files (2011), Top Secret America (2011) and Death by Fire (2010), as well as The Choice 2008 and The Choice 2000.

The Choice
  • RTÉ Two, Sunday, 9.00pm