Fact-Checking Ann and Mitt Romney's Hardknock Early Years

Elspeth Reeve 52,330 Views Aug 29, 2012

If you didn't know much about Mitt and Ann Romney's biography, you might have gotten the impression from Ann's speech at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night that they were once two crazy kids in love just scraping by in a sad little slum. There's no doubt the Romneys were very much in love, but their youthful real estate experience wasn't typical of impoverished college students, or even middle class ones. They lived off stock options.

Like Ann Romney, Chris Christie talked about his hardscrabble early years, when he and his wife moved into a "studio apartment," as if it's the norm of a young married couple to move into a suburban McMansion straight out of college. Let's go through the lines of Ann Romney's speech to see where the cute-poverty rhetoric doesn't quite match up with history:

Their first apartment

Ann Romney Tuesday: "We got married and moved into a basement apartment. We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping, and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish."

Ann Romney in 1994: When Mitt Romney was running for Senate in 1994, his wife gave a candid interview with Jack Thomas of The Boston Globe, published October 20, 1994. She told Thomas that after their Hawaii honeymoon, Mitt transferred to Brigham Young University. Back then, she still thought of that time as tough. But she wasn't as good at describing it, suggesting that it was rough living off stock options: 

"They were not easy years. You have to understand, I was raised in a lovely neighborhood, as was Mitt, and at BYU, we moved into a $62-a-month basement apartment with a cement floor and lived there two years as students with no income... Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time."


Ann Romney 2012: "Our desk was a door propped up on sawhorses. Our dining room table was a fold down ironing board in the kitchen.  Those were very special days. Then our first son came along."

Ann Romney 1994: "We had our first child in that tiny apartment. We couldn't afford a desk, so we used a door propped on sawhorses in our bedroom. It was a big door, so we could study on it together.... The funny thing is that I never expected help." [Most college students would consider investment income help, right?

Whether Mitt was 'handed success'

Ann Romney 2012: "Mitt will be the first to tell you that he is the most fortunate man in the world. He had two loving parents who gave him strong values and taught him the value of work.  He had the chance to get the education his father never had. But as his partner on this amazing journey, I can tell you Mitt Romney was not handed success."

Ann Romney 1994: "Remember, we'd been paying $ 62 a month rent, but here, rents were $ 400, and for a dump. This is when we took the now-famous loan that Mitt talks about from his father and bought a $42,000 home in Belmont, and you know? The mortgage payment was less than rent. Mitt saw that the Boston market was behind Chicago, LA and New York. We stayed there seven years and sold it for $90,000, so we not only stayed for free, we made money. As I said, Mitt's very bright.

"Another son came along 18 months later, although we waited four years to have the third, because Mitt was still in school and we had no income except the stock we were chipping away at. We were living on the edge, not entertaining. No, I did not work. Mitt thought it was important for me to stay home with the children, and I was delighted."

The risk at the start of Mitt's career

Ann Romney 2012:  "I saw the long hours that started with that first job. I was there when he and a small group of friends talked about starting a new company. I was there when they struggled and wondered if the whole idea just wasn't going to work. Mitt's reaction was to work harder and press on."

The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman: At Bain & Company, founder Bill Bain treated Romney "as a kind of prince regent at the firm, a favored son." He selected Romney to start  and run Bain Capital. "It would be Romney’s first chance to run his own firm and, potentially, to make a killing," they write. "It was an offer few young men in a hurry could refuse. Yet Romney stunned his boss by doing just that." They continue:

He explained to Bain that he didn’t want to risk his position, earnings, and reputation on an experiment. He found the offer appealing but didn’t want to make the decision in a “light or flippant manner.” So Bain sweetened the pot. He guaranteed that if the experiment failed Romney would get his old job and salary back, plus any raises he would have earned during his absence. Still, Romney worried about the impact on his reputation if he proved unable to do the job. Again the pot was sweetened. Bain promised that, if necessary, he would craft a cover story saying that Romney’s return to Bain & Company was needed due to his value as a consultant. “So,” Bain explained, “there was no professional or financial risk.” This time Romney said yes.


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