The Real Romney

On Jan. 3, Iowans will choose their Republican presidential nominee. I hope they pick former Gov. Mitt Romney. To me, Romney is the obvious choice, but my Republican friends groan over my enthusiasm.

They distrust the governor, and for good reason. The press prints him as the flip-flopping Mormon from Massachusetts. Pundits deem his political discipline robotic: he’s incapable of emotion, they warn, and driven by self-interest. When Romney has shown otherwise, he’s pulled a fast one on us—ever the salesman, always shifting his stances.

This is bunk. Throughout his career, Romney always has been the same man: Mr. Fix-it. Romney is a problem-solver, who stresses data—not ideology—in his decisions, and so has changed his mind over the years. But a closer look at Romney reveals he isn’t the unscrupulous vote scrounger his opponents claim he is.

He started in pinstripes, most notably as the founder of the private equity firm Bain Capital. His eye for markets—invisible to conventional wisdom—spurred him to back hopeless startups like Staples, Domino’s Pizza, and Sports Authority. CEO Romney grew an initial $37 million and seven-person staff to an impressive $4 billion and 115-person staff. During his fourteen-year tenure, Romney averaged an annual internal rate of return on realized investments of 113 percent.

On the stump, Romney dusts off his CEO badge, listing the skills he acquired in business that he would bring to the White House. Romney calls his decision-making process “bathing in the data.” He pours over information, debates with colleagues, and implements a policy only after hearing the case against it. He’s cheap too, promising to cap non-defense discretionary spending at inflation minus one percent. Indeed, Romney the businessman could restore fiscal responsibility to the GOP brand.

Still, Romney’s resume reads “robber baron” to some. When Romney ran against Sen. Edward M Kennedy ’54-’56 (D-Mass.) in 1994, Kennedy skewered the newbie with TV ads blasting Romney over an Indiana company’s layoffs prompted by then owner, Bain Capital. (Romney was on leave from Bain during the firings.)

But Romney applies his data-driven approach to good causes. In July 1996, Bain Managing Director Robert Gay told Romney that Gay’s 14-year-old daughter had gone missing in New York City. Immediately, Romney closed Bain’s Boston office, shipped most of its 30 employees to New York City, and established a command center in a hotel, where they wrote a five-part plan. Romney recruited 250 people from associated Wall Street firms to help with the search. Together, they posted 250,000 flyers with the girl’s picture throughout the city. The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes reports, “Twenty hours later, a New Jersey family heard of the dragnet, called the police, and reported Melissa was safe with them.”

Romney’s good heart and work ethic, gained national fame when he led the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. As expected, Romney transformed a $379 million deficit into a $56 million surplus. He also set an example. Foregoing a salary, Romney cut the fancy meals and expensive trips. He infamously served his executives pizza on paper plates—and charged them a dollar a slice. Pledging to strip government officials convicted of felonies of their pensions and to prohibit senior staff members’ relatives from lobbying the executive branch, a President Romney could polish the GOP’s tarnished ethics.

Of course, Governor Romney is the best model for a President Romney. His record should stroke conservatives’ feathers: He left a state once $3 billion in debt with a $1 billion surplus (without raising taxes), deputized state police to enforce federal immigration laws, increased the number of charter schools, and vetoed a bill authorizing the cloning of human embryos.

Romney stands out among his Republican peers for taking on healthcare. The story of Romneycare is well known: Romney required each Massachusetts adult to buy healthcare insurance, enrolled Medicaid candidates who hadn’t realized they were eligible, and helped those who couldn’t afford their own insurance with federal funds previously used to dole out free care to walk-ins.

He also deregulated the healthcare industry, dropping mandated benefits like in vitro fertilization. Consequently, monthly premiums for a healthy 37 year-old in Massachusetts fell from $335 to $184.

Romney displayed true leadership. He badgered his aides to crunch numbers, even after they told him it was futile. Once he found his solution, he was a heartfelt spokesman. Robert Moffit, director of Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, recounts that Romney gave a PowerPoint presentation to brief him on the plan. So he’s dorky—but sincere.

Many Republicans nod their heads over Romney’s accomplishments, but eye his recent shift to social conservatism suspiciously. Pointing to Romney’s vetoes of liberal abortion laws and his Congressional testimony defending traditional marriage hasn’t helped. The media’s image of the calculating politician has stuck.

But this charge that Romney will say and do anything to get elected ignores the fact that he never has flip-flopped on his supposedly largest liability: his Mormon faith. Attacks on his religious beliefs and news of evangelicals declaring their opposition to Mormonism haven’t caused Romney to convert. Rather, he declared in his speech, “Faith in America,” last week, “Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.” With the Iowa caucuses (where voters are assumed to be sensitive about his Mormonism) weeks away, no spineless politician would say that.

Because Romney has stood his ground when it’s mattered, I believe his social conservatism is sincere and that he would be a pro-life, pro-marriage president.

Mistakes and misstatements have obscured the fact that Mitt Romney is an exceptional man. He lacks President Clinton’s lip bites and President Reagan’s jokes, and he isn’t the man who can talk a great line.But he is the man who can get the job done. And that’s exactly what we need.

Brian J. Bolduc ’10, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Winthrop House. Bolduc is an intern for Romney for President, Inc.