As Mitt Romney's opponents continue their campaign to cast the candidate as a heartless, uncaring elitist, his supporters have begun to return fire--by circulating a true story of Romney at his most heroic.
If you've got Romney-supporting friends and an Internet connection, chances are you've received the following e-mail at some point this election cycle, the basic facts of which have all been confirmed by news reports and online fact-checkers:
Sometimes, this facet of Romney's personality isn't so subtle. In July 1996, the 14-year-old daughter of Robert Gay, a partner at Bain Capital, had disappeared. She had attended a rave party in New York City and gotten high on ecstasy.
Three days later, her distraught father had no idea where she was. Romney took immediate action. He closed down the entire firm and asked all 30 partners and employees to fly to New York to help find Gay's daughter. Romney set up a command center at the LaGuardia Marriott and hired a private detective firm to assist with the search. He established a toll-free number for tips, coordinating the effort with the NYPD, and went through his Rolodex and called everyone Bain did business with in New York, and asked them to help find his friend's missing daughter. Romney's accountants at Price Waterhouse Cooper put up posters on street poles, while cashiers at a pharmacy owned by Bain put fliers in the bag of every shopper. Romney and the other Bain employees scoured every part of New York and talked with everyone they could, prostitutes, drug addicts, anyone.
That day, their hunt made the evening news, which featured photos of the girl and the Bain employees searching for her. As a result, a teenage boy phoned in, asked if there was a reward, and then hung up abruptly. The NYPD traced the call to a home in New Jersey, where they found the girl in the basement, shivering and experiencing withdrawal symptoms from a massive ecstasy dose. Doctors later said the girl might not have survived another day. Romney's former partner credits Mitt Romney with saving his daughter's life, saying, "It was the most amazing thing, and I'll never forget this to the day I die."
So, here's my epiphany: Mitt Romney simply can't help himself. He sees a problem, and his mind immediately sets to work solving it, sometimes consciously, and sometimes not-so-consciously. He doesn't do it for self-aggrandizement, or for personal gain. He does it because that's just how he's wired.
Many people are unaware of the fact that when Romney was asked by his old employer, Bill Bain, to come back to Bain & Company as CEO to rescue the firm from bankruptcy, Romney left Bain Capital to work at Bain & Company for an annual salary of one dollar. When Romney went to the rescue of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, he accepted no salary for three years, and wouldn't use an expense account. He also accepted no salary as Governor of Massachusetts.
Character counts!! (and yes...that's worth reading again!)
This isn't the first the story has gone viral. Bob Gay told it publicly when Romney was running for Massachusetts governor in 2002; and in 2007, the Romney presidential campaign actually turned it into a commercial. In both elections, the tale found its way into inboxes.
But while the story is old, the context surrounding its latest re-upping is distinct. Not since Romney's1994 Senate bid--when Ted Kennedy trotted out victims of Bain-backed layoffs--has the negative caricature of Mitt been so dominantly colored by the notion that he doesn't care about other people. It's a narrative that's been strengthened by the candidate's own verbal slipups, taken out of context to contend that he likes firing people, and doesn't care about "the very poor."
To combat this line of attack, the story of Romney's kidnap rescue operation is perfect ammunition. It shows him putting to good use his "robotic" analytical skills, relentless drive, and access to vast sums of money--turning these would-be negatives into positives, and casting him as a sort of warrior consultant, riding in to save the day.
What's more, he succeeded largely by circumventing government resources--hiring a private detective agency, for example--providing a case study in the superiority of private enterprise.
Devin White, a 24-year-old Romney supporter from Colorado who's shared the story online, said the anecdote exemplified everything he likes about the candidate.
"In that story, he uses every resource at his disposal to successfully meet his goal," said White. "In my opinion, he'll bring that same fervor to the White House. He's very much a leader."
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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