Sunday, January 15, 2012

Romney Is Badly Misplaying His Private Equity Experience

Most U.S. voters think the U.S. government is bloated. They would welcome a President that would slash and burn through the wasted spending of their tax dollars. There is only one candidate for President that can legitimately claim to have experience at eliminating inefficiencies in organizations - Mitt Romney. However, the Romney campaign has foolishly tried to position him as a job creator rather than as an inefficiency slasher.

Romney's role in private equity was not to to create jobs. The goal was to improve a company’s profits and resale value, either by increasing sales or cutting costs. While some of the firms that Bain Capital invested in have created jobs, others have slashed them by going bankrupt. The claim that Romney made while running for Governor of having created 10,000 jobs is credible. The current Romney claim that “we helped create over 100,000 new jobs" comes across as puffery. It has been described by the Washington Post as an untenable figure.

It is hard to understand why the Romney campaign has drawn attention to his private equity background. They should have learned a lesson from the attacks on his role at Bain Capital by Sen. Edward Kennedy in Romney's losing race for the Senate in 1994. The ads Kennedy ran attacking Romney's job-killing record at Bain damaged the Romney campaign. Kennedy won by a landslide, with 58 percent of the vote, in the year the Republicans won back the House.

In addition to positioning Romney as an inefficiency slasher, his campaign should be focusing more attention on his success at organizing the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He helped erase a $400 million deficit and put together the one of the best organized Olympics. His successful leadership of the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee serves as a strong credential for a role as President. And Romney's management capabilities demonstrated as CEO of the SLOC certainly stand out in sharp contrast to the disorganized campaign of Newt Gingrich.

Mitt Romney has missed an opportunity to position himself as an inefficiency slasher. Doing so can be supported by his experience as Bain Capital and at the Salt Like Olympic Committee. His claims to be a job creator have opened him up to attack as a private equity "vulture". His campaign seemed tone deaf to how despised the private equity field is in the era of Occupy Wall Street. However, responding to the attacks on his private equity experience provides Romney an opportunity to reposition his role at Bain Capital. A positioning as an inefficiency slasher would play much better than his current claims of being a job creator.

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