It's very easy to cynically discard all of the very human things Romney has done in his life: going to evangelize in France, help a co-worker look for their missing child. Though to do so is a mistake.
I take these stories at face value. Romney has a kind streak.
Like Carnegie and Gates, Romney makes a distinction between his business life and his personal life. It's a sort of "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" mentality I've seen before. "It's just business" is common statement of self-absolution. Sort of like Michael Palin in Brazil when he is about to torture Jonathan Pryce: "This is a professional relationship." I don't hold with this corporate persona taking the responsibility for human actions but I understand it. I believe Romney truly believes he did the right thing at Bain was the right thing as far as he could.
The question then becomes why, unlike Carnegie and Gates, did Romney decide to enter politics?
Ezra Klein has an opinion on why Romney wants to be president here. According to Klein it's Romney's excellent managerial ability that makes him feel he can make a contribution.
Klein is probably right.
But that just begs the question of why politics?
Here I think we have to look at Romney's father, George, who ran for President in the sixties. George was governor of Michigan and did a good job-- he was reelected with increasing margins. He failed at running for president. Failed pretty decisively since it was Nixon that got the nomination. Afterwards, George worked in charitable organizations. And did a good job.
Does this start to sound familiar?
I don't know a lot about Mormonism. I have nothing more against it than any other religion. The relationship between the Mormon church and women has been interest. (See here.) The church is pretty committed to the traditional roles of men and women. This makes the role of father and son extremely important.
I don't know Mister Romney in any personal way. However, I do watch him politically and what I see is a man who truly wants to contribute and whose vector of contribution has been directed away from his natural bent.
I see Romney much more closely aligned with Bill Gates and Andrew Carnegie. Strong businessmen who made far more than they could ever spend and who decided to use their money to "do real and permanent good in this world." But Mitt Romney was torqued by his father towards politics to accomplish this-- something for which he is woefully unsuited.
I hope Romney is not elected for my own selfish political goals. However, I also hope he is not elected for his own sake. I think Romney will find the limitations of success and continual criticism debilitating. He will be unable to reach the goals he sets for himself and on many days will achieve little, nothing or lose ground.
It will make him profoundly unhappy.