Mitt's equity army

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  August 10, 2007

Romney has dedicated much of his life to the institution and to his fellow Mormons; his natural tendency to help them has resulted, along the way, in a strong network of loyal allies for business, the Olympics, and now politics.

He has hired or helped advance a number of LDS colleagues at Bain Capital, including Robert C. Gay, Fraser Bullock, John Bennion, and Grant Pace. He has bought or funded companies run by Mormons, including Nutraceuticals, Affiliated Computer Systems, and The Learning Company. He has found lucrative positions for LDS executives, such as Kevin Rollins, Gary Crittenden, and Roger Sant. And, he has given one-tenth of his sizeable earnings — his campaign has estimated his worth at over a quarter-billion dollars — to the church.

Executives from his church are now returning the favor. Mormon CEOs and chairmen at JetBlue, Deloitte & Touche, 1800Contacts, Black & Decker, Hollywood Video, Oil States International, Ryder Systems, Novell, and many more have contributed to Romney’s campaign, and several of his national finance co-chairs are Mormon.

All of this is part of raising the capital for his latest venture, a hurdle he has cleared impressively.

But as the campaign moves from fundraising toward vote-counting, Romney is learning that presidential politics is, in some ways, a trickier business than those he’s mastered in the past. This weekend’s Iowa Straw Poll, for instance, was supposed to be a major launching point for the campaign, which has been planning hard and spending heavily for it since at least January. But without the participation of other top-tier candidates, even if he wins, Romney will get no credit for it — and if he doesn’t, it will be a disaster.

He’s also finding that it can be harder to change or re-brand your product in politics than it is in business, as Southern conservatives remain unconvinced of his new-and-improved positions on abortion, gun control, and stem-cell research.

The challenge will only heat up for Romney. A month from now, Labor Day kicks off the real campaign: a non-stop, four-month sprint to New Hampshire and the real Iowa caucus. By that point, Fred Thompson and possibly Newt Gingrich may have entered the race, trying to bump him off from the right, while McCain and Giuliani will be looking for any slips to let them paint him as too green to be commander in chief. Those with whom he has business connections have helped get him this far, but now even they can only sit back and watch.

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Related: The Mormonator, Drive free or die, Mitt’s thorny threesome, More more >
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