My previous blog entry commented on our national government being broken. With that background, what would be more appealing than a leader with a proven track record as a problem solver? Let’s take a look at Romney’s ability to solve problems in several different arenas.
1. Bain Capital problem solving – Romney’s firm specialized in seeking out troubled companies and turning them around. One of Romney’s detractors, a former member of Obama’s administration, gave a positive review of Romney’s record at Bain Capital:
Overall, Bain Capital’s record was extraordinary, among the best in the business…. Of course, a number of its early stage investments failed. That is the nature of venture capital — an industry not unlike baseball in that a .300 batting average can be an excellent performance. But who can quarrel with an investment firm trying to nurture and finance young companies? The story of the private equity business is somewhat more complicated. Almost by definition, a private equity investment is made with the hope of improving the profitability of the “portfolio company”…. Bain had less than its share of bankruptcies, but it had a few — it appears four — that are particularly troubling…. Let’s be sure to keep these few problem children in perspective. During the Romney years, Bain made 77 significant investments — and a number of smaller ones. It made billions for worthy investors and, yes, doubtless created some incalculable number of net new jobs for the U.S. economy.
2. Home problem solver – Mitt’s son Tagg describes his dad as someone who is constantly trying to solve problems:
“In his spare time, he wants to solve problems,” Tagg Romney said in an interview. “He wants to figure out, when he comes over to your house, he wants to figure out, ‘Well, your boiler’s not working. How are we going to fix the boiler?’ and ‘Have you noticed that some of your trees are dying out there? Why are your trees dying? What’s causing that? Can we figure that out, and can we go down to the hardware store and see if they’ve got something to fix that?’ And all of a sudden you see him driving a tractor in your backyard, and he’s pulling stuff up. He’s like, ‘Oh, these rocks were doing that.’ I mean, that’s just who he is.
3. Olympics turnaround – The Salt Lake Olympics were suffering from scandal ($1 million in bribes) as well as financial problems (projected debt of $397 million), when Romney was asked to take the reins. Romney’s COO at the Olympics praised Romney’s involvement in the Olympic turnaround:
It was in the midst of a scandal, and you only know how dark it was there if you were there…. Prospective sponsors, nobody would answer the phone. We had a budget deficit, the morale was very low…. [Romney] can see into a situation very quickly… He’s very facile with numbers. He’s got that raw intellect which lays a great foundation… He is a blast to work with. He’s very funny, he’s got a wonderful sense of humor; he has endless energy. It’s always hard for people to keep up with him, because he’s going at 90 miles an hour all the time.
In the end, attendance at the Olympics was up compared to previous Olympics, and the budget shortfall turned into a $56 million surplus. And Romney, who had said he would not accept a salary unless the Olympics ended in the black, turned over his Olympics salary to charity.
4. Bain & Company problem solving – Not only did Romney solve problems for companies in which Bain Capital made investments, Romney was also called on to turn around Bain Capital’s parent company (Bain & Company). Bain & Company was suffering from problems with debt and from dissatisfaction among employees and clients. Clay Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, described Romney’s accomplishment in glowing terms:
There’s nobody that I can conceive of who could have come into that fractious situation, and pull that together…. I know Nancy Pelosi very well and I know a number of the Republican leaders…. Pulling those guys together is a lot easier than pulling Bain together.
5. Personal problem solver – Mitt Romney helped members of his congregation with personal problems while he served as a lay pastor in the LDS church. Ronnie Catalano and his wife credit Romney with saving their marriage.
‘Mitt was the one who really stood out. He was always caring about my family, my wife, my children,’ Catalano said in a recent interview. ‘He taught me how to keep my family together.’ ‘He saved us. He rescued us,’ added his wife.
6. Government problem solver – Mitt Romney inherited a state budget that faced a $3 billion shortfall and managed to generate budget surpluses by reducing spending, consolidating government agencies, increasing fees, and closing loopholes. He didn’t change the tax rates but still managed to set the state’s financial house in order. Even staffers who were helping one of his Repbulican opponents admitted Romney had a strong fiscal record in Massachusetts:
I’ve been waiting my entire voting life for a President who would actually follow through on campaign promises of turning around the fiscal disaster of our national deficits. I have been successively disappointed by every Republican and Democratic President in my voting lifetime. With Romney’s track record of establishing fiscal discipline in the Olympics, in the corporate world, and in state government, and his overall record of being a creative problem solver, I’m willing to suspend disbelief for the first time in many years and hope that, finally, we might have a candidate who can pull it off.