The Campaign Spot

Young Mitt Romney, Barefoot Street-Fighting Vigilante

I think Sean Trende is really onto something here when he notes that the case against Obama has been made, and remade, by Romney and his campaign to exhaustion. He argues that voters are now evaluating Romney as a preferable alternative and still don’t feel persuaded; there are too many vague and blank spots in Romney — what about his time as a governor, an Olympic manager, and as a corporate executive should reassure them that he’ll be a good president? (Yesterday Chuck Todd was marveling that Romney’s surrogates tell his story much better than he does.)

A couple of aspects of Romney’s life I would be emphasizing, if I were running the campaign:

Taking on epic mismanagement and incompetence in Massachusetts state government as governor, as described here:

An even more dramatic anecdote the campaign isn’t using: In 2006, Romney took on Matthew Amorello, head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, after a 38-year-old mother of three was killed by a falling concrete panel installed as part of Boston’s scandal-plagued “Big Dig.” When Amorello failed to show up to a meeting to discuss the agency’s response to the accident, an incensed Romney charged up to him — in front of news cameras — grabbed Amorello and asked incredulously, “You’re too big for the governor?” according to “The Real Romney,” a biography compiled by Boston Globe reporters.

Romney later forced Amorello out of office — and convinced the state Legislature to give him emergency powers to finish the project. “Immediately, Romney became a commanding and reassuring presence,” the authors reported.

Picture a president that outraged about the GSA, Fast & Furious, or wasted Solyndra investments…

A focus on spending priorities that saved the Salt Lake City Olympics, as described in the Wall Street Journal today:

When Mr. Romney arrived, the Games were running $387 million short of reaching their planned budget of $1.45 billion. His proposed cuts included a planned $2 million youth camp, an IOC pet project. Cindy Gillespie, who led the committee’s lobbying for federal funding, said Mr. Romney believed “it’s a distraction having to take care of a lot of 12-year-olds during the Games.”

Mr. Romney also cut wetlands restoration, and a decorations budget was whittled to $6 million from more than $20 million, said Fraser Bullock, a Bain Capital executive brought in by Mr. Romney to be the committee’s chief operating officer.

Rather than treating the committee board to their customary lunches, Mr. Romney sold them Domino’s pizza at $1 a slice, Mr. Bullock recalled. Games sponsor Coca-Cola supplied unlimited free soda, but Mr. Romney sold the drinks at 25 cents a can.

“Every line item in the budget was classified as ‘must’ or ‘nice to have,’ ” Mr. Bullock said, and “nice to have” was chopped.

Giving away his inheritance, described here: “Romney answered, ‘Well, he didn’t have as much as I think some people anticipated. And I did get a check from my dad when he passed away. I shouldn’t say a check, but I did inherit some funds from my dad. But I turned and gave that away to charity. In this case I gave it to a school which Brigham Young University established in his honor. … And that’s where his inheritance ended up.’ According to a short history of the George W. Romney Institute of Public Management at BYU, the family provided an endowment in 1998, within a few years of George Romney’s death.”

Romney and his sons, heroic lifesaversand not that long ago:

The family, who had traveled from their home Tewksbury Township, N.J to vacation on the lake, were sailing peacefully in their 20-foot long wooden boat until it began to take on water. Within three minutes it had begun to sink.

Though the lake was calm, the water warm, and they all were wearing life vests, the near pitch-black darkness terrified the Morrissey clan.

’This happened really, really fast,’’ Mr. Morrissey said in 2003. When the boat started to sink, he dialed 911 on his cellphone as fast as he could. ‘’As I’m making the call, the boat is going down under my feet.’’

Romney and his sons followed the shouts to find the group floating in the darkness treading water alongside their dog.

The Governor heaved the youngest two women onto his Jet Ski, a three-seater, and raced back to shore. The two Romney sons stayed with the rest of the family until the Governor returned to ferry the rest of the family, and their dog, safely to dry land.

A focus on helping others, reflected in lifelong generosity to charitable foundations, with some specifics listed here:

From AIDs Action to the Wright Museum, Romney’s charities of choice are diverse; in fact, through 2010 the Tyler Foundation had made grants to nearly 100 distinct organizations. Many of the donations have gone to youth programs or health related charities. Of the bunch, the following are Mitt Romney’s top 10 favorite philanthropic targets in terms of total dollars awarded by the Tyler Foundation since 2000:

1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: $4,781,000

2. Brigham Young University: $525,000

3. The United Way: $177,000

4. Right to Play: $111,500

5. The George W. Bush Library: $100,000

6. Operation Kids: $85,000

7. Center For Treatment of Pediatric MS: $75,000

8. Harvard Business School: $70,000

9. City Year: $65,000

10. Deseret International: $50,000 Weber State University: $50,000

All told, we have accounted for nearly $18 million of charitable giving by Mitt Romney to date.

Finally, a surprising detail from his early years I just read about:

Young Mitt Romney, barefoot street-brawling vigilante, as described in The Real Romney:

He could show a tougher side when the occasion warranted. Six months into his mission [in France], Romney was in his apartment when a woman burst in to say some Frenchmen were beating up one of his fellow Mormons down the street. The barefoot Romney joined his roommates in rushing into the snowy night. They found a team of rugby players, drowning their sorrows after a lost match, hassling two female missionaries… The male missionary who leaped to their defense had been punched out. Romney ended up with a badly bruised jaw.

“There were about 20 guys, very large and very muscular, and we were a group of very small American guys,” Romney would recall forty years later. “If you get into a fight with Muhammad Ali, you don’t return the punch, you just put your arms up.”

Much later in life, Romney had upgraded to the Vulcan neck-pinch.


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