TOPICS > Politics

How Mitt Romney Came to Be the GOP Nominee

May 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Mitt Romney was 58 delegates away from clinching the Republican nomination at the start of Tuesday, as Texas Republicans headed to vote in a primary likely to wrap up the GOP presidential race. Margaret Warner and The Boston Globe's Michael Kranish discuss Romney's path -- from a failed 1994 Senate run to his current campaign.
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MARGARET WARNER: And two looks now at the presidential campaign on the day that Mitt Romney is poised to cross the delegate threshold to become the GOP nominee, and national and state polls forecast a close contest between him and President Obama.

MITT ROMNEY (R): I’m not going to forget Craig, Colorado. I’m not going to forget communities like this across the country that are hurting right now under this president.

MARGARET WARNER: Mitt Romney was a long way from Texas today, as Lone Star State Republicans headed to vote in the primary likely to wrap up the GOP presidential race.

When the day began, Romney had 1,086 delegates out of the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination. There are 152 at stake in Texas. He spent the day in general election battleground states — Colorado.

MITT ROMNEY: I’m not going to forget middle-class families that are asking themselves, why is it that, three-and-a-half years after this president got elected, we’re still in a tough economy like this?

MARGARET WARNER: And Nevada.

Romney’s nomination success came, as the NewsHour’s Vote 2012 Map Center shows, from primary and caucus wins in 31 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories. A win in Texas would make it 32 states. It’s a far cry from his failed 2008 nomination bid, which he lost to John McCain.

Romney faced down as many as 10 challengers this season and debates that turned raucous at times.

MITT ROMNEY: Okay. Go ahead, Mr. Speaker. Go ahead.

NEWT GINGRICH (R): Wait a second.

RICK SANTORUM (R): You’re entitled to your opinions, Mitt. You’re not entitled to. . .

MITT ROMNEY: I have heard that line before. I have heard that before, yes.

MARGARET WARNER: The fight effectively ended with the exit of his main challenger, Rick Santorum, last month.

The nomination will be officially bestowed at the Republican National Convention at the end of August.

On this big day in Romney’s nomination journey, we look at the personal and political experiences that shaped him as a candidate.

For a perspective on that, we are joined by Michael Kranish of The Boston Globe, co-author of the book “The Real Romney.”

So, Michael, who is the real Romney? And what is it really — my question is, what is it about his character or his temperament that enabled him to come back from defeat four years ago and prevail this year?

MICHAEL KRANISH, deputy bureau chief, The Boston Globe: Well, it’s interesting. He had said he had never imagined running for president, but many his friends will tell you that he’s imagined this since his father failed in his bid to be the Republican nominee back in 1968.

So it’s something he surely thought about for many, many, many years. And when he ran the last time around, it wasn’t a successful campaign for many reasons, tried to court the social conservatives, evangelicals. And this time around, he really tried to pitch a very simple message that he’s Mr. Fix-It. And that worked this time around.

MARGARET WARNER: In terms of his sort of personality and his character, first of all, is he as competitive as he looks?

MICHAEL KRANISH: Well, he is.

He ran against Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion in Massachusetts, in 1994. That took a lot of gall to some people to think, well, you can really oust this man, who is a legend in Massachusetts? And he was not successful. And, interestingly, one of the reasons that he failed in 1994 is that Ted Kennedy used attacks on Romney’s work at Bain Capital against Mitt Romney.

And Romney just thought, people won’t pay attention to this. He tried to change the message, rather than respond directly. This time around, Romney is completely different.  He tries to respond right away and explain still a very controversial set of dealings, but it’s a very different type of candidacy in the way he’s responded.

MARGARET WARNER: So he’s shown an ability to evolve and to learn from past mistakes?

MICHAEL KRANISH: Well, evolve certainly is a fair word to use about Romney.

When he was running for the U.S. Senate in ’94, he ran basically as a liberal. He as opposed to the Contract With America that Newt Gingrich was pushing. He said he was better on gay rights than Ted Kennedy. He favored abortion rights. Then, when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, he called himself a moderate, and he pushed through a health care plan that a lot of Republicans have said they have problems with.

And now, in 2012, he’s called himself severely conservative. So we see many different places, many different things that he has drawn from ideologically that now shape who he is today. And perhaps if he is president, he might still pull from all of those things or depending on the Congress perhaps he would be as conservative as he has run in the primaries.

MARGARET WARNER: I understand that in the book that you co-authored that you did a lot on the chapter about his childhood, his upbringing and his family within the Mormon Church.

What did he get from that that shaped him today?

MICHAEL KRANISH: Well, he looked up to his father, George Romney, so much. He really put his father on a pedestal and he said he’s the real deal and has tried to emulate him in so many ways. His father was a very successful businessman, governor of Michigan.

And here we have Romney, businessperson, governor of Massachusetts, and seeking the presidency. Things that shaped him, we have, are some things that he doesn’t talk about. For example, he said that his Mormon faith is one of the — quote — “most important treasures of my life.”

It’s not something he talks about in great detail on the campaign trail. He doesn’t talk a lot about the fact that he is a graduate of both Harvard Business and Harvard Law. In fact, he said Obama spent too much time at Harvard, even though he obviously spent a lot of time at Harvard.

And Bain Capital, it’s a 15-year period that is very important to understand. And right now, we’re hearing on both sides of the campaign 30-second commercials. But in our book, we talk about 15 years and 100 deals. So, obviously, that tells you there’s a lot more there. It’s an interesting story that tells you really about the kind of person he is and what he would try to bring to the table.

MARGARET WARNER: So talk a little bit more about what kind of person he is. In other words, if you have been 15 years in that pressure cooker, the pressure to perform for yourself, your stockholders, pressure to cinch a deal, do you see those same qualities coming to him as a candidate, shaping him as a candidate?

MICHAEL KRANISH: Well, we haven’t had that many businesspeople who have become presidents and successful presidents, so it’s not clear that being in business is necessarily the best qualifier.

He also was governor, which is a more direct experience. But at Bain Capital, the way he worked was as a business consultant and also running a large investment fund. So you typically had to put in about a million dollars to be in this fund, and he would invest these hundreds of millions of dollars in various companies.

For his investors, and this is important — for the investors, he was very successful, nearly doubling their money every year. That’s different than going in and running a business. He himself has said that he didn’t go in and run the companies. That was left to management. He was running his investment fund and the fund was very successful in making very wealthy investors even wealthier.

It is a different story and a legitimate thing to talk about on the campaign for both sides about what happened in very specific deals where he went in, put debt on companies. Sometimes they succeeded. Sometimes they didn’t. And that’s a different story than the investment fund success.

MARGARET WARNER: A lot has been made by — from analysts to people who have worked for him about what some call his formality, some call his remoteness or stiffness.

Some say, you know, he can’t really — he’s not comfortable connecting on a human level with people he doesn’t know well. One, do you agree with that assessment from looking at him close and was he always that way?

MICHAEL KRANISH: Well, Mitt Romney has grown up in a series of bubbles, like we mentioned a minute ago, a pretty controlled world. He is not a back-slapping politician.

For example, he never ran for mayor or city council. He started his political career running for the U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy. So he is a more formal person. He doesn’t spend perhaps — people at Bain Capital would say, after work, he would put his briefcase in the car and then he went home.

And Mitt Romney has said he didn’t take the briefcase out of the car when he got home. And that tells you I think a lot about Mitt Romney. He wanted to go in, do the job, leave it behind and then go home to his family.

MARGARET WARNER: And, finally, in a general election campaign, there are rigors and pressures you never experience in the worst nomination campaign.

What does his past history tell you about how he will withstand that?

MICHAEL KRANISH: Well, we’re really interested to see, because when he ran against Ted Kennedy, Ted Kennedy beat him, and beat him pretty badly in debates, a lot of people thought, and certainly the way the election results turned out.

And he has not faced a race against another Democrat nationally, obviously. Running in the GOP primary against a relatively weak field is different than what he’s going to face now. There will be a lot of very harsh attacks on both sides. And people will want to know, can you connect with me? Can you understand the problems I have?

And that’s something that some of his own advisers have asked about him. How can you get away from this image of the perfect hair and the starched shirt and really show that you have a connection to the average person? It’s been a challenge for him. It will continue to be a challenge.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, much to see.

Thank you so much for helping us at least think of how to look at it, Michael.

MICHAEL KRANISH: Thank you.