Mitt Romney at work at Bain & Co. in 1993. (David L Ryan / Boston Globe…)
Reporting from Rochester, N.H. — After spending the morning deflecting his rivals' attacks on his work at a private equity firm, Mitt Romney sought to cast that part of his resume in a more positive light during an afternoon rally Sunday in Rochester as he marched toward a likely win in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.
Facing a new advertising campaign in South Carolina skewering his role as the co-founder of Bain Capital, a campaign financed by an independent group supporting Newt Gingrich, Romney put a glossy spin on his work for the firm, omitting the fact that the company's acquisitions often led to downsizing and layoffs. Instead he explained his venture capital experience in the most elemental of terms, asserting that his firm "got money from other people and would use that to start businesses, or sometimes acquire businesses that were in trouble ... and then try to make them better or get the businesses to grow."
The former Massachusetts governor cited one of the great success stories of his tenure at Bain: the firm's investment in the office chain Staples, a small investment -- about $5 million -- compared with others by the firm. Noting that he helped "stock the shelves" the night that Staples opened its first store, Romney contrasted the chain's successes with what he described as the cavalier spending of federal dollars by President Obama.
"I spent my career in the private sector. I'm not perfect but I do get it and I will use what I know to get America to work," Romney told a friendly crowd gathered at the iconic Rochester Opera House.
With Democratic and Republican opponents attempting to use Romney's privileged upbringing, his wealth and his work at Bain to paint him as detached from the concerns of average Americans, Romney argued that his career in business had helped him relate to the struggles many American families face in an uncertain economy -- even those workers at risk of losing their jobs.
"I've learned what it is to sign the front of a paycheck, not just the back of a paycheck, and to know how frightening it is to see whether you can make payroll at the end of the week," Romney said. "I know what it's like to worry whether you're going to get fired."
"There were a couple of times when I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip," he added. "I care very deeply about the American people and it frightens me to see a president who has made so many mistakes when people are hurting so badly."