“Mitt who?” my friend asked. I said, “Come on, you know Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts – the guy who passed an innovative health care bill that requires every person in his state to purchase a health insurance policy; the guy who lowered taxes in a Democratic stronghold and managed to balance the state’s budget by reorganizing its workforce and cutting costs; the guy who nearly single-handedly saved the Salt Lake City Olympics!
Yes, I said, that’s Mitt Romney. Later on it struck me that there might be a lot of other folks who, like my friend, don’t know who Mitt Romney is. That should change. And after attending a small, private dinner reception for Romney in California recently, I think I can help make that happen.
The reception marked the fourth time I’ve met Romney; each time I’ve noticed something special about him. First, he’s a family man. Romney almost always travels with his wife, Ann, who is an attractive woman and the mother of five boys, all of whom are now grown and productive adults. In my opinion, a couple who can raise a family, stay in love, and still be wildly successful must posses great wisdom and personal character. Let’s say it’s a good start for a man who wants to hold the most powerful leadership role in the world.
Second, Romney is a self-made businessman. He didn’t have a father who paved the way with gold. He wasn’t set up in a business so he could then run for president. No, Romney first worked at Bain consulting and then started Bain Capital, which made millions of dollars investing in growing companies. Bain made it big and Romney was the undisputed leader. I have spoken with several of the people that Romney personally financed, and every person says he was brilliant, easy to work with, and a great strategic player. For further evidence of Romney’s leadership capabilities, consider that Bain Capital continues to thrive without Romney because the governor developed a first-rate leadership team to build upon the culture of success that he started.
Third, Romney has the proven ability to govern across America’s increasingly vast political divide. In a state where Republicans are only slightly more common than dinosaurs, Romney passed a health care bill with the support of a Democratic legislature—not to mention Teddy Kennedy—that serves as a model for other states and the federal government. Indeed, The Heritage Foundation, the most respected conservative think tank in Washington, wholeheartedly endorsed—and worked behind the scenes to help create—Romney’s plan. Why does Heritage like it? Because it does not provide universal health care financed by the government; rather, it keeps private insurance in the loop and only subsidizes people who are too poor to pay all of their insurance premiums—but even then, everyone must pay something. Far from a government hand-out, this plan embodies the innovative, forward thinking that America so desperately needs to respond to an escalating health care crisis.
Fourth, Romney is highly analytical and collaborative. He likes to look at a problem from a lot of different angles and then he asks the all-important question, “How do I build coalitions to get a viable solution passed through a legislature?” By 2008, the American people will demand a president who can think broadly about an issue based on principle, AND who can also build bridges to get things done. I think Romney can do both.
Now let’s turn to the problems surrounding a potential Romney candidacy.
Leadership Experience That Stops at the Water’s Edge
Romney lacks foreign policy experience, something I think will be a key factor in winning the nomination of either party in 2008. As Islamic radicalism continues to fester and China continues its rapid economic ascent, America will need a leader well-versed in the intricacies of global politics to shepherd her through many difficult challenges. One of Romney’s first priorities should be proving to the American people that he is a competent foreign policy thinker.
He’s From Massachusetts…
As the folks in Texas, Florida, Virginia and elsewhere might remember, Massachusetts is that little state tucked up there by New York—not exactly a breeding ground for conservatives. Romney will need to move to diffuse any rumors of Northeastern elitism and peg himself as an insurgent fighting against the liberal status quo in New England.
...And He’s a Mormom
If you’re like me, this doesn’t matter much. In fact, I think it’s actually a plus because it assures me that Romney shares my personal values. But Romney’s religion poses legitimate questions for many Americans, and he will most likely be forced to address the issue throughout his campaign. I asked Romney about the issue and here’s what he said: “Well, if my religious affiliation is the worst thing people can dig up on me, then I’m in pretty good shape.” Continuing, Romney said, “some people in Massachusetts were concerned about this as well, but once people got to know me, they saw I had solid ideas.”
I think the American people will have a similar reaction…once they get to know him.