But, as his record at Bain has come under increasing scrutiny, it has also raised questions about Romney's core values and style. The Obama campaign has accused Romney of being a job destroyer and "outsourcer in chief" for the factories that Bain closed and the jobs it moved abroad.
Rehnert says the attacks on Bain are offensive to those who worked there, and unfair to Romney because some of the deals that soured were not on his watch. He also dismissed a famous photograph of the early Bain team, with $10 and $20 bills bulging out of their pockets, and clenched between their teeth, as feeding into what he and others say is the biggest misconception about Romney: that he is only interested in money.
In fact, Rehnert said, Romney was so frugal that, although partners were earning vast sums, they worked at cheap metal desks and Romney once chided him for frivolously spending money on a newfangled toy: a cellphone. It was the mid-1980s.
Others described a big-hearted businessman who put family firmly first. In 1996, Romney shut down the company after a managing director's 14-year-old daughter went missing after a party. The entire staff was dispatched to New York, where they fanned out with fliers and search teams. She eventually was found at a friend's house.
This is the generous boss Cindy Gillespie remembers from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Gillespie, later a top gubernatorial aide, hadn't known Romney very long when her father lapsed into a coma after heart surgery. Romney, she said, called her at the hospital every day. Later, after her father recovered, Romney picked him to participate in the Olympic torch relay as the representative Vietnam veteran.
"It was the highlight of his life," Gillespie said of her father.
Others testify to similar acts of kindness during Romney's time as church leader in the 1980s and 1990s. Douglas Anderson, dean of the business school at Utah State University and a longtime family friend, describes how the Romneys opened their house to his family for a month after the Anderson house burned down. Others describe Romney piling his boys into his truck to help someone move house, fixing a church member's leaking roof or tackling a hornet's nest for a friend.
But there was also an authoritarian side that struck some as self-righteous and cold.
As a young bishop in 1983 Romney learned that a married mother of four in his ward had been advised by doctors to terminate her latest pregnancy as she was being treated for a potentially dangerous blood clot. Her stake president already had approved, when Romney arrived at the hospital and sternly urged her to reconsider. "As your bishop," she said Romney told her, "my concern is with the child."
Recalling the incident in Scott's book, the woman, Carrel Hilton Sheldon said: "Mitt has many, many winning qualities but at the time he was blind to me as a human being."
Romney often quotes a piece of advice from his father.
"Never get into politics too young," he'd say. "Only after you've proven yourself somewhere else, and your kids are raised."
Romney's first foray into politics, in 1994, struck some as political insanity. Prodded by his father, Romney challenged Sen. Kennedy, the "liberal lion" from Massachusetts, one of the most Democratic states. Romney presented himself as pro-abortion rights, a champion for gay rights and in favor of gun control — among numerous positions he later reversed. The pundits accused him of trying to be "more Kennedy than Kennedy."
Initially the squeaky-clean newcomer did well in the polls, unnerving the Kennedy campaign. But once the Kennedy machine swung into full gear, Romney's campaign faltered. Foreshadowing the attack ads of today, Kennedy aggressively went after Romney's record at Bain, casting him as a cold-hearted capitalist willing to do anything for profits. For the first time, Romney's religion was also publicly scrutinized.