As Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has risen in the vice-presidential sweepstakes, a few political observers have joked that the athletic 42-year-old congressman, with his jet-black hair and square jaw, looks like one of Romney’s five sons. But according to Romney confidants, Ryan’s appeal to the former Massachusetts governor is more professional than filial.
“He is the kind of smart, young guy that Mitt likes and Mitt would have probably hired at Bain,” says Mike Murphy, a former Romney adviser. “He shares the intellectual talent and positive outlook of the guys who Mitt mentored for decades.”
Back when he was running Bain Capital, Romney was known for following a management method called the “Bain Way.” In their book, The Real Romney, Michael Kranish and Scott Helman describe it as “intensely analytical and data driven.” It required a “healthy ego,” the authors write, “to go into a business and tell an owner how to run his own firm better.”
It also required a specific type of talent. Bain Capital operated as a small shop, and Romney took care to hire ambitious and serious business-school graduates — fresh-thinking young men he could develop, not just seasoned Wall Street hands.
In the late 1970s, “I was asked to help recruit bright, recently graduated MBAs to join the firm,” Romney recalls in his book, No Apology. “We were a cutting-edge company, we paid high salaries, and we usually landed the cream of the crop.”
Edward Conard, a partner at Bain Capital from 1993 to 1997 and the author of Unintended Consequences
, tells NRO that Romney’s effectiveness was sharpened by his relationships with the rising-star consultants he recruited, so he is not surprised to see Romney form a bond with the analytical Ryan. Romney may not have been an overly warm figure in the office, he says, but he was clearly drawn to uber-competent thinkers.
“I saw it firsthand,” Conard says. “Romney challenged us to challenge each other, and he was never afraid to ask tough questions, or answer them. He surrounded himself with the sharpest, most talented guys and ran the place like a consulting firm, where employees were expected to create value, to do their homework, and present proposals rooted in facts. In Ryan, you see that kind of politician; he’s not slinging bull.”
Inside Romney’s Boston headquarters, aspects of the Bain Way have seeped into the campaign effort. Spencer Zwick, a 32-year-old private-equity investor, who was dubbed Romney’s “sixth son” by Politico, runs Romney’s finance team. Bob White, a mid-fifties former Bain Capital partner, is one of Romney’s closest advisers, and a frequent presence at Romney’s side.
“Bob White is an important adviser, and he has known the governor since the early days at Bain,” says Ron Kaufman, a Romney strategist and former White House political director. “While they’re not the entire campaign, people like Spencer and Bob come out of the business world, know the governor very well, and have perspectives and skills that are valued.”