Another Perspective

‘Turnaround King’ Mitt Romney Buys Iowa, Expects Huge Profit This Winter

And other state up for sale?

By 8.13.07

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Ames, Iowa -- Corporate "turnaround king" Mitt Romney disclosed on Saturday that earlier this year he purchased the entire state of Iowa for "pennies on the dollar." The venture capitalist, who also is running for the Republican presidential nomination, said that if he could not leverage his purchase into occupation of the Oval Office, he expects to at least "make a killing on all this damned corn."

Neither Romney nor Iowa Gov. Chet Culver would disclose the purchase price, but outside experts estimated it would have been between $20 million and $25 million. The low price is because Romney did not buy the actual farmland, which is worth billions. He just bought the "human capital." That is, the people.

"Iowans are not boastful like New Yorkers or brash like Bostonians," Romney said. "They're just simple, salt-of-the-earth folks. Which is why I could buy them all for less than the price of a good-sized parking garage."

Technically, Romney did not buy every Iowan. Federal law prohibits human trafficking, so Romney could not buy minors, only adults willing to sell themselves. However, that turned out to be nearly every of-age Iowan.

"We were primarily interested in the voting-age population anyway, so it worked out great for us," Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said.

If the estimated purchase price is accurate, Romney spent roughly $1,000 per purchased Iowan, an astonishingly low figure according to most economists, except those who had graduated from the University of Minnesota or the University of Wisconsin, who said they wouldn't pay more than a dollar for any Iowan who wasn't carrying on his back a bushel of corn and a jug of grain alcohol.

Romney, famed for buying struggling businesses and turning them into profitable companies, said he was not certain how he would use his exciting new purchase, but he was sure it would come in handy.

"Nearly two million Iowans can do a lot of things," Romney said. "Like grow corn and...grow corn."

Later he amended that statement, saying "Iowans also can fix tractors."

Asked if his purchase of nearly every adult Iowan had contributed to his victory in Saturday's Ames straw poll, Romney immediately dismissed the idea.

"The people of Iowa are not for sale!" Romney indignantly declared. "Well, I mean, not figuratively, anyway. They are, actually, literally for sale. But not until late January of 2008, by which time my investment will have, um, matured, so to speak."

According to business sources, Romney recently has been inquiring about purchasing the state of New Hampshire as well. But analysts say that despite the state's remote location, lack of large tracts of arable land and absence of a single dominant industry, the purchase price might be too taxing for Romney's fortune, down to between $200 million and $225 million after the Iowa purchase.

"Before last fall you never could have bought New Hampshire; the people were too proud," said one analyst. "But now that the Democrats control every branch of government, you probably could buy everything for whatever it would cost to provide universal health care and preserve every tract of open space left in the state. Unfortunately for Romney, that's easily more than twice what he's worth. Maybe if he makes Giuliani his running mate, Steve Forbes would buy it for him."

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Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.