As Republican Mitt Romney tours the country in an effort to muster support for a second presidential bid, the former Massachusetts governor is presenting himself this time around as an executive, fluent and experienced in economic matters, ready and able to take control of what he has called “the largest enterprise in the world.”
Stating that the slow economic recovery has kept the unemployment rate high, currently at 8.9 percent, Romney argues that his background as a business executive is what makes him the strongest candidate for the job.
“I like President Obama,” Romney said in a recent article in The New York Times, “but he doesn’t have a clue how jobs are created.”
After graduating from Brigham Young University, Romney received an MBA as well as a law degree from Harvard. He started out at the Boston consulting firm Bain & Company, and later went on to head its sister company, Bain Capital, today one of the largest private equity firms.
But some dislike the fact that Romney used leveraged buyouts to build his fortune – taking over companies with a small down payment by borrowing against assets to pay the purchase price, with the intention of selling it at a high profit.
“The amounts of money are so vast that it is truly a matter of time before the taxation of private equity is front and center of the public agenda,” said James Post, a professor at the School of Management, in a 2007 article for The New York Times.
“Increasingly, this world of private equity looks like a world of robber barons, and Romney comes out of that world.”
Today, according to an article in CNNMoney, Romney’s net worth is $202 million.
“He has the kind of experience the country needs in a leader right now,” said Leslie Cunningham, a political science major at Boston College. “He spent his career in the private sector; he knows how to create jobs.”
THE OBAMACARE “GODFATHER”
Romney’s new focus on the economy and creating jobs is reminiscent of his successful bid for governor in 2002. But his record as Massachusetts’s governor is also a hindrance to gaining support.
Many have dubbed him the “godfather” of what Republican critics call Obamacare, which bears striking resemblances to the health insurance plan he signed into law in Massachusetts.
Romney defended himself against Republican rivals in a press conference in early March, saying that the plan was “unique to Massachusetts” and should not have been used as a blanket policy for the rest of the country. He claimed he “would repeal Obamacare, if [he] were ever in a position to do so.”
But some think that Romney needs to face this issue more directly.
“Romney’s trying to run away from the health care plan,” said Boston-based Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman. “The Republicans won the house back not by focusing on job growth but by focusing on health care. And those are the kinds of issues that are going to dominate the primary.”
Romney has to straddle appealing to a wide base with winning over conservative Republicans, Goldman said.
“His biggest problem is whether he’s conservative enough to win the Republican primary,” he said. “A candidate that has as much appeal as he does to the wider general audience still needs to get through the primary to get to that audience.”
FROM GOVERNOR TO PRESIDENT?
Still, others praised his business background and seemed to look favorably at his gubernatorial tenure as a success he might have again as president.
As governor, Romney reduced corporate loopholes and cut state spending in order to cut taxes and increase consumer spending. His health care program was also pitched as a way to create more jobs.
“I think he did a good job,” said a Brookline-area restaurant owner, who asked to remain anonymous. “When he came into office he was facing a huge deficit, and in just a few years the state had almost $600 million, a lot of which came from businesses.”
“I think what [Romney] did for health care was really good for the state,” said Nikki Snyder, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s great that anyone can go to the emergency room and not get bombarded with impossible fees.”