The business of government: Mitt Romney talks politics, business at Econ Club

Former presidential candidate and governor Mitt Romney speaks during a meeting of The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan Tuesday at Lake Michigan College's Mendel Center. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Former presidential candidate and governor Mitt Romney speaks during a meeting of The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan Tuesday at Lake Michigan College’s Mendel Center. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Mitt Romney was all business when it came to politics Tuesday night.

The former presidential candidate and past Massachusetts governor spoke at great length on both the current presidential election and America’s future economy as a guest of The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan’s speakers series.

Before a Mendel Center audience, Romney didn’t stray from talking about presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The Michigan native has made headlines during the 2016 presidential race by speaking out against his own party’s nominee.

It was no different Tuesday when Romney told audience members he would not be voting for either nominee. He even joked that he might choose his wife as a write-in.

“I can’t possibly explain what we’re seeing this year. It is a surreal experience to watch this campaign,” he said. “If the Republican (candidate) is the best person to be president, then I’ll support them. If not, then I won’t. He (Trump) has failings of a personal nature that has caused some Republicans to say they can’t support him. I’m one of them.”

But Romney didn’t stop there.

“By the way, Hillary Clinton has failings also. If you haven’t noticed, most people find that she lacks the kind of trustworthiness you want to see in a president. An overwhelming amount of people on both sides of the aisle are not happy with their nominees.”

Former presidential candidate and governor Mitt Romney says he’s not voting for either major party nominee for president Nov. 8. He joked he might write in his wife’s name. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Former presidential candidate and governor Mitt Romney says he’s not voting for either major party nominee for president Nov. 8. He joked he might write in his wife’s name. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Romney speaks from experience as he was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. As governor of Massachusetts, he led a reversal of the state’s fortunes and sustained a period of economic expansion through an exercise in what he calls “finding common ground.”

He mentioned that during his presidential campaign, the country began to rebound from its economic collapse that began in 2008. The former governor said that had the unemployment level remained above 8 percent, he would have had a better chance of retaining the Oval Office for conservatives.

Romney addressed a few questions toward the end of his appearance in the Grand Upton Hall, one of which was why so many Republican legislators seemed to be giving up on their candidate.

He explained that it’s the voters who choose each party’s nominees and not the party organizers, which is why many of the legislators were not happy in the first place.

Asked why he lost the election himself, Romney quoted former Vice President Walter “Fritz” Mondale – a former presidential candidate who lost the 1984 election to Ronald Reagan.

“All my life I wanted to run for president in the worst way, and that’s just what I did,” Romney said to a room full of laughter.

A businessman first

Prior to serving as governor, Romney was president and CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. He eradicated a $379 million operating deficit and organized thousands of volunteers months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He also had to overcome a controversy that involved officials bribing the Olympic committee.

Romney founded Bain Capital, one of the nation’s most successful venture capital and investment companies. Now the former politician serves as director of Marriott International and as an advisor for a private equity firm.

As a businessman whose career began by selling microphones in Kalamazoo, Romney touched base on the differences between business and politics.

He gave a brief slideshow presentation with statistics that showed how the U.S. is dealing with the trouble that comes with the national debt ceiling, stagnant CO2 emissions and the poverty level.

“Politics is far more forgiving than the business world,” Romney said. “… If the budget doesn’t work, you just take on more debt. In business, you can’t do that. If you mess up, you lose your job and your business.”

Through his experience in both worlds, Romney was adamantly optimistic in America’s ability to remain the innovation hub of the world.

He said he anticipates changes coming though technology in health care, transportation and entertainment.

Romney then told listeners that he is in favor of free enterprise and that “the American way works.”

“We face these enormous economic challenges from other parts of the world that are catching up in some respects,” Romney said. “But what’s happening in America is a transformation in the nature of enterprise in a way that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 19, 2016)
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