The Romneys hopped on their Jet Skis and, together with a few other good Samaritans, ferried the six passengers and their dog, who had been vacationing from New Jersey, back to shore. The story made headlines across New England.
As for the exhaustive search operation Romney helmed in 1996 to find his Bain Capital partner’s daughter, he has spoken of it just once this year — and only after an Ohio voter asked him to. The story is perhaps better known among voters, however, because Romney made a television advertisement about it during his 2008 race, and a pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, has aired a similar ad this year in some states.
RACE FOR DELEGATES: Stepping up to the GOP nomination
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As Romney told it, Robert Gay’s daughter had gone to a party in New York City without permission and had not returned home to Connecticut. Immediately, Romney shut down Bain Capital’s Boston headquarters and set up a command center at a New York hotel.
He had clerks at Duane Reade drugstores stuff fliers featuring a photo of the girl into shopping bags, and he and his team fanned out to find her. “There we were, a bunch of folks in suits walking around in the parks of New York and in the streets and showing pictures and saying, when we saw teenagers, ‘Have you seen this girl?’ ” Romney recalled.
After their efforts made the local news, someone called the hotline Romney set up asking for a reward. He hung up, but Romney’s team traced the call, went to his home in New Jersey and found Melissa in the basement.
Both anecdotes could help neutralize the stereotypical image Romney’s political opponents are pushing of him as a heartless, super-rich technocrat.
“I call it the law of the car keys,” Castellanos said. “Before I give you my car keys to take me somewhere, I want to know where you promise to take me — policy — but I also want to know: Can I trust you to take me there? Politics is not just about policy. It is about character and trust. Mitt Romney has told the policy part of the story, but that sense of who he is, and can you trust him to take you there, is important, too.”