Romney: Touting business skills in White House bid

By Sharon Cohen

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Dec. 24 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Eric Muirhead, then captain of the school's cross-country team, remembers when they were seniors and Romney, then new to the squad, was the final runner one day in a 2-mile race. Romney, he recalls, stumbled and kept getting back up, refusing to quit, eventually crossing the finish line as the crowd cheered.

"That was the single most impressive race I had ever witnessed," Muirhead says. "He's tough. He's a fighter. He kept getting stronger and stronger and stronger. He finished every race he ran that season."

Romney enrolled in Stanford, then served as a Mormon missionary in France, where he was involved in a car accident that killed one of his passengers. He was so severely injured that a police officer assumed he was dead. The other driver was at fault.

When he returned home, Romney attended Brigham Young University and married his high school sweetheart, Ann Davies, who converted to Mormonism. He once described himself as a "true-blue through-and-through" believer; in Massachusetts, he was a bishop and lay leader in the Mormon church, offering pastoral advice.

Four years ago, Romney worked to reassure voters, especially evangelicals suspicious of Mormonism, that he was a Bible-reading Christian. He also delivered a faith-and-values speech, saying he would "not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations" of the presidency and would maintain a firm separation between them.

This time, Romney's focus has been the economy as he trumpets his business credentials and criticizes President Barack Obama. He's suggested the president is an elitist who gets foreign policy advice from the "Harvard faculty lounge" — though Romney, himself, has joint law and business degrees from Harvard (and though Romney held a fundraiser this spring at New York's Harvard Club.)

After Harvard, Romney eventually joined Bain & Co., a Boston-based consulting firm, where he quickly emerged as a rising star. He was asked to lead a spinoff, Bain Capital, a private equity firm that provided management consulting and launched and revitalized promising companies. Romney has touted Domino's Pizza, Sports Authority and Staples among the successes.

But Bain's record of acquiring, then selling companies also had some agonizing consequences — plant closings, layoffs and bankruptcies. In a 2007 New York Times interview, Romney, reflecting on the cutbacks, said: "Sometimes the medicine is a little bitter, but it is necessary to save the life of the patient."

In a recent debate, Romney said Bain had invested in about 100 different companies, "not all of them succeeded" but "tens of thousands of jobs" were created.

A Washington Post fact-check concluded Romney's record "proves that he can produce staggering returns for investors" but said the campaign offered "no definitive proof that Bain added more jobs that it eliminated" during his tenure.

Romney's work at Bain cemented his business reputation. It also helped make him very rich.

In 1994, he took a plunge into politics at the deep end. He challenged Ted Kennedy.

Mitt Romney, Senate candidate, was a supporter of abortion rights, an advocate of gun control measures, a friend to gays, a self-proclaimed independent during the Reagan-Bush era

"He wanted to look a lot like Kennedy, without being Kennedy," says Paul Watanabe, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

In fact, Romney wrote a letter to a gay Republican group in Massachusetts during that campaign saying he'd "provide more effective leadership" on gay rights issues than Kennedy.

Some moderate positions Romney staked out then — and later when running for governor — have long given way to more conservative ones.

The one-time defender of abortion rights now believes the U.S. Supreme Court should reverse Roe vs. Wade and return the issue to the states to decide on the legality.

The Senate candidate who said in 1994 he did not "line up" with the National Rifle Association signed up for a lifetime membership in the group 12 years later, as he was considering his first presidential run.

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