WESTERVILLE, Ohio – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday began the process of introducing himself to a general election audience by peppering his stump speech with personal anecdotes aimed at helping the wealthy former venture capitalist connect with every day people.
Speaking to students and staff at Otterbein University in central Ohio, Romney described his career as the head of Bain Capital, a private equity firm that he said provided the impetus for a number of successful start-ups, including the Staples office supply chain.
In the 1990s, Romney said, most companies purchased their pens, paper clips, copy toner and other supplies from merchants who delivered straight to their offices but at high prices. Bain was considering a proposal from an entrepreneur to sell office supplies in bulk at discount prices.
Though “experts” told him it was a bad idea, that no manager wanted to worry about making a shopping run for office supplies, Romney said he hired analysts to look into actual office supply purchases by companies and discovered that the firms were spending far more than they thought on office supplies. “And so after a lengthy analysis, we decided that we would invest in this office super store. It’s called Staples,” Romney said to murmurs of recognition. “It now employs … I think 90,000 people.”
The story, Romney said, demonstrates that his data-driven approach in business will carry over to running the government. The anemic rate of the economic recovery under President Obama, he said, was due to a lack of such skills. “The impact of gathering facts, gathering information, learning about the reality behind the words, has proven to me, in the business sector, that facts are more important than words and that results are more important than words,” he said. “ … You will hear words from people running for office that sound great. But sometimes what people say is not a perfect example of what they’re going to do.”
Several supporters recently urged Romney to open up about his personal life and professional success, in an effort to tie a positive message to the barrage of criticism he throws at the president in every campaign speech.
Romney on Friday blamed Obama for high unemployment rates, falling median income, reduced housing prices and a soaring national deficit. “We are on track to becoming Greece,” he said, referring to that country’s debt crisis. “No question in my mind that if this president were to be reelected, we will ultimately face a Greece-like setting, where people will wonder whether they want to loan money to America, and loan money to America at low interest rates.”