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Romney 2012 Buzz Vulnerable Despite Debate

What do Romney's Bain Capital-era investments in companies such as Staples (SPLS) and acquisitions of companies such as Domino's (DPZ) and Sealy (ZZ) say about Romney as a businessman and candidate?

Parker: He's been involved with acquisitions for years through Bain Capital. He made hundreds of millions of dollars while there. When he ran against Sen. Kennedy in 1994, the Kennedy people were able to dig up an acquisition he had made at a paper supply company, Ampad, where there had been extensive layoffs. And one of the things Romney had asserted is that he hadn't been that kind of slash-and-burn operator when, in fact, he had.

This is an industry, this acquisition-and-go-private model, that has grown up since the 1980s and, by and large, revolves around a very simple formula: Buy with borrowed money, load the borrowed money onto the balance sheet of the acquired firm, cut costs -- which usually means cutting labor costs -- and go back public in a few years thereafter and cash out there. It's not clear to me that they are success stories in terms of long-term, healthier companies, but it's become a favored way to make money.

How will that background work to his advantage and what are its potential perils?

Parker: He's going to keep saying that he's been an extremely successful businessman, which is a strategy that Republicans and not a few Democrats have always claimed as a superior life experience to serving in politics. I think the fact that he plays hard and yet there's not a paper trail of overtly felonious behavior means he'll have a story to tell.

When he was running the last time, I thought that he was quite reluctant to reveal his actual net worth, which I thought would have been very interesting to know more about. I think he'll have to be quite clear about where, broadly, a lot of his wealth has come from, and that is going to be very interesting to see.

Do the differing estimates of his fortune that fall between $190 million to $300 million matter?

Parker: It's a rounding error in my life. Do you find that a large number? You'd take the low end if offered, right?

Is business experience necessarily beneficial when seeking the presidency?

Parker: There is no particular history of businessmen making great presidents. We don't have a tradition -- certainly not a 20th and 21st century tradition -- of people who come from business being superlative. I suppose George W. Bush is someone who rode the story of being a businessman. The one prior to him would have been Herbert Hoover. And both left office having handed the country a fairly large financial crisis.

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