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June 10, 2015 | by Steve Lawrence

Governor Romney on GOP Election Hurdles:

Hillary’s strengths and weaknesses and a powerful agenda for the next president

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, relaxed and articulate, said he would remain “aggressively neutral for the next several months” as his party decides who will be its 2016 presidential candidate. In a fireside chat with Bob Weidner, at the MSCI Annual Meeting in May, Romney said he dropped out of the GOP primary fight because “while the country is badly in need of change, and there is a much better chance of that occurring with a Republican in the White House, I was not the most likely candidate to beat Hillary Clinton.”

Romney’s description of the election challenges facing both parties illustrated how important it will be for MSCI members and the business community in general to vote, educate their employees about key issues and participate in the political process. “The world needs you, the business community, to be successful,” he said. “That is how we create jobs in this country.”

Republicans going into the primaries may have too many disparate candidates, he said, from the Libertarian, evangelical, Tea Party and more mainstream wings of the party. He said he hopes a strong candidate will emerge and be nominated from the main stream—which represents the largest block in the party—someone with the ability to “cobble together” all these factions under the “large tent we need to win this election.”

“The world needs you, the business community, to be successful.”

But he said the Democrats’ advantage is they seem to come together better after even a divisive primary, and Republicans “tend to hold a grudge.” More than that, he said, Democrats characterize the GOP “as the party of the rich and big business.”

The former governor said he is troubled that there is so much missing in the equation of how we run for office now. “In hiring, I’ve always wanted to understand not just what people say, but what their record is,” he said. “Nowadays everyone seems a lot more interested in just what people say.”

Which is partly why, he said, Hillary Clinton would be a difficult opponent. “She’ll have a financial advantage and she’ll be an effective debater,” he said. And that may blunt the serious baggage she carries. “She has extraordinary conflicts of interest in her and her husband’s financial interests,” Romney said. “And there should be real questions about her ethics, the trust we can have in her, and her record as Secretary of State.”

He urged the next president, regardless of political party, to forge an aggressive infrastructure program and create incentives for people to get a decent education and their first job, which would “take a dramatic whack at poverty.” The middle class is really struggling, Romney said, and we have record numbers of people in poverty today. This creates a persistent drag on the economy, he pointed out. “We are not seeing the kind of policies that are conducive to business growth that would expand and raise wages.”

We need a tax program that encourages research and development and innovation, Romney said, because “that is the only thing that encourages long term economic growth.”  We need strong trade agreements with enforceable provisions that prohibit cheating. “I agree with those who say these pending trade deals are important,” he said, “because if we can’t agree on new trade rules, China will step in and make the rules.”

“The next president has to say, ‘we have to make America the most attractive place in the world for businesses because that’s the only way to lift the middle class,” Romney said. “I just don’t think that crosses the mind of this president.” 

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