Home > Michael Ashton > Mitt Romney: Profile of a Businessman

Mitt Romney: Profile of a Businessman

Mitt Romney is a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He is a businessman as well as a former governor of Massachusetts. His accomplishments include signing a statewide health reform program into law which gave most residents access to health insurance. As a frontrunner for the 2012 nomination as president, he was among nearly a dozen Republicans who sought the party’s nomination to run against Democratic President Barack Obama, who was seen as vulnerable amid relatively high unemployment and the lingering effects of a recession from the Bush administration. But Romney’s campaign has received a significant level of criticism from people who feel that the background in business that he proudly touts on the trail could have a particularly negative effect on his presidential aspirations.

According to his biography published on Biography.com, Mitt Romney was born Willard Mitt Romney on March 12th 1947 and raised in the affluent town of Bloomfield Hills Michigan. He is the son of George Romney, a contender to be the Republican candidate for presidency who was defeated by Richard Nixon in 1968.

Though Romney grew up with wealth and privilege as the son of a Michigan governor, he has tried to downplay his early advantages and said in a speech that he took “an entry-level job” after graduating from Harvard law and business schools with a joint J.D. /M.B.A. degree in 1975. Mitt Romney began his career in business, working at Boston Consulting Group, which was one of the world’s top-three management consultancies. After two years, he entered a management consulting position to Bain & Company, hired personally by the head of the company, Bill Bain. Bain would later say of the thirty-year-old Romney in a New York Times article that Romney “had the appearance and confidence of a guy who was maybe ten years older.”

With Bain & Company, Romney learned the “Bain way”, which consisted of immersing the firm in each client’s business. In 1983, Bill Bain offered Romney the chance to head a new venture that would invest in companies and apply Bain’s management techniques to improve operations. In the face of doubt from potential investors, Romney and his partners spent a year raising the $37 million in funds needed to start the new operation, which had fewer than ten employees. Romney worked there turning around struggling businesses until 1984, when he co-founded Bain Capital, which became Bain’s private-­equity spin-off. When Bain ran into trouble in 1990, it asked Romney to become the CEO and restore the firm to financial health for the next two years. He continued at Bain Capital until he left to pursue a career in public service, eventually running the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to an article by Politicol News published in February 2012, Mitt Romney’s position as the President and CEO of the Winter Olympic Games is indicative of his lack of direction when it comes to budgeting and could be symptomatic of how he would act in office. Romney cites his running the Olympics as a success story when it was the federal government that came to the rescue with taxpayer dollars by injecting $600 million into the Olympic purse strings. “I led an Olympics out of the shadows of scandal,” he states in a Washington speech but he does not acknowledge the fact that the government bailed him out. Romney actually persuaded his friends in congress to give more money to cover the costs of the Olympics in his self-proclaimed turnaround of the endeavor.

Nonetheless, Romney parlayed his experience with the Olympics and translated it into politics when he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2003. During Romney’s term as governor, he oversaw the reduction of a $3 billion deficit. Romney also signed into law a health care reform program to provide nearly universal health care for Massachusetts residents.

Shortly after failing to get the Republican nomination for the 2008 presidential election, Romney began a devising a strategy for the 2012 presidential campaign. He began building up a political infrastructure for what would become a $1 billion campaign. He formally announced his intention to run for presidency on June 2, 2011, while continuing to give speeches and raise campaign funds on behalf of fellow Republicans. His campaign slogan, “Believe in America”, was criticized heavily for being the same as one John Kerry used when he ran as the Democrats candidate, a Democrat who ran for president in 2004.

As explained in a piece in The Atlantic Magazine from December 2011, Mitt Romney cites his long-term relationship with the private sector as the reason why he understands “how jobs come to America and why they go. I’ve competed with companies around the world. I’ve learned something about how it is that economies grow. It’s not just simple—wave a wand and everything gets better.”

As job creation and the flailing economy have become a hot issue for candidates in the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney is placing hopes on his background as a successful businessman to position him as the most qualified contender to jump-start the nation’s economy.  His frequent appearances before conservative groups and in the news media have given Romney multiple opportunities to seek conservative support after his unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008. During that bid, some conservatives were skeptical of his convictions. Romney’s leadership of Bain Capital was supposed to be the basis of his candidacy, something that would present him as an attractive alternative to a novice president struggling to right the economy. Instead, it has become a liability. It was inevitable that Mitt Romney’s involvement with Bain Capital as well as the staggering wealth he amassed with them would become a political issue at some point in 2012.

From the early stages of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, he has publicly criticized President Barack Obama’s record on job creation. He has taken many opportunities to paint the picture that Obama’s administration have made it more difficult for small businesses in this country, vowing extreme changes should he be elected in November 2012. “Small business has really felt like it’s been under attack over the past several years,” Romney told a crowd of local fishermen and residents on a pier in Portsmouth, New Hampshire during a televised speech. “If I become president of the United States, I am going to be a pro small business president and fight for the rights of small business people.” Acknowledging the recession contributed to a drop in small business startups, Romney placed a large portion of blame on President Obama’s policies, including an increase in regulations put in place by Washington. “Regulators are just multiplying like proverbial rabbits and making it harder and harder for enterprises to grow and to understand what their future might be,” Romney said.

Although his supporters believe his business background make him a more viable candidate, his detractors are highly skeptical of his track record and how it could translate into the future as the president of the country.  According to the Service Employees International Union, Mitt Romney:

  • Favors big corporations and businesses to receive higher tax breaks
  • Was responsible for keeping one of the worst job growth rates as the governor of Massachusetts while the national economy was thriving, ranking 47th out of all 50 states.
  • Accumulated vast sums of money made a fortune by acquiring companies and laying off thousands of workers.
  • Believes that workers should pay for their own unemployment benefits through individual savings accounts. Romney even said it’s an “indisputable fact” that extending jobless benefits only discourages people from finding employment
  • Proposes scaling back unemployment insurance costs by paying benefits for fewer weeks; similar to plans enacted by Tea Party governors such as Rich Scott (Florida) and Scott Walker (Wisconsin).
  • Vetoed $11 million in job training funds for employees

According to the article “Obama Seeks To Define Mitt Romney As Insensitive, Out Of Touch” by Jeff Mason published by The Huffington Post in April 2012, Obama’s campaign has worked steadily to construct an image of an insensitive and patrician Romney even before he wins the Republican nomination, hoping to create a caricature that sticks with voters once the election officially becomes a two-man race.  As pointed out by The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Romney’s net worth is up to a quarter million dollars would end up being one of the richest presidents elected into office. Romney has spent much of his campaign defending his personal wealth in the face of mounting criticism from the president and his re-election campaign as they work to paint the former businessman as out of touch with most Americans. “If we become one of those societies that attacks success, one outcome is certain – there will be a lot less success,” Romney said during a speech at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. “You’re going to hear a deafening cacophony of charges and counter-charges and my prediction is that by Nov. 6 most of you are going to be afraid to turn on your TV.”

As pointed out by Mark Maremont in “Romney at Bain: Big Gains, Some Busts”, an article published by the Wall Street Journal in January 2012 , the piece discusses the progress Mitt Romney has made on the trail and was quick to highlight how his rivals have sought to turn his Bain tenure against him. Rick Santorum, one of Romney’s early opponents, who dropped out of the race, was critical of his background. “We need someone who can talk and relate to folks battling in this economy, not someone talking about being a CEO of a company and making jokes about firing people,” Santorum said. Rick Perry ran an ad saying Mr. Romney “made millions buying companies and laying off workers.” Newt Gingrich has said Mr. Romney should “give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain.”

Though Mitt Romney has beaten many of his fellow running mates and is the presumptive nominee, his campaign will have to work hard at making sure his business background connects to voters in a positive way. Voters will have to truly believe that Romney has not exaggerated his record and that he is not a wealthy elitist.

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  1. May 22, 2012 at 1:24 am

    Good info, a lot of thanks to the author. It can be incomprehensible to me now, but in common, the usefulness and significance is overwhelming. Thanks again and great luck! Harvard Business Essentials

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