Posted by: mulrickillion | January 19, 2012

Why Mitt Romney’s Bain Problem Could Kill His Candidacy

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets audience members at a campaign rally in Columbia, South Carolina. Reuters / Bryan Snyder.

By William A. Galston, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution

The New Republic

January 12, 2012 — There is good news and bad news for Mitt Romney out of New Hampshire. The good news is that he won an impressively broad-based victory that did nothing to slow his drive for the Republican presidential nomination. But it also exposed a vulnerability that could soon prove debilitating, if not fatal, to his candidacy. . . .

Bain matters because it goes to the heart of the core case Romney is making: The economy is broken, Obama doesn’t know how to fix it, and I do. If his rivals can undermine his record as a job-creator and substitute the narrative of Romney as a “vulture capitalist” who makes money by looting firms and firing workers, his path to the presidency becomes a lot steeper.

The only thing surprising about this issue is how late in the day it took center-stage. After all, an increasing number of blue-collar workers have become Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. The Tea Party movement is hardly sympathetic to Wall Street and the financial sector. And a key element of the Republican base—small business—has long regarded the corporate/establishment wing of the party with suspicion. As a populist whipping-boy, Romney is straight out of central casting.

So what should Romney do? His initial response—claiming that an attack on private equity firms is an attack on capitalism—may get him through the Republican nominating contest, but it won’t serve him very well in the general election. Most citizens make an intuitive distinction between business activities that add value to workers and the economy (running an auto company, for example, as Romney’s father did) and those that shuffle paper to the advantage only of the shufflers. It would be costly—perhaps fatal—for Romney to end up on the wrong side of that divide.

His campaign is wrestling with (some reports suggest divided over) how best to respond. There’s an understandable reluctance to open up to public scrutiny the nearly one hundred deals in which he participated as the head of Bain Capital. But there’s really no choice. Romney has to present a counter-narrative, and he can’t do that without talking about individual cases. If he doesn’t release details on his own terms, they’ll dribble out anyway, prolonging the pain. And besides, in a public culture now suffused with anti-elite suspicion, a rich man running for president can’t just say “Trust me”—especially if the skills that enabled him to become rich are the heart of the case he’s making for replacing an incumbent president. . . .

Why Mitt Romney’s Bain Problem Could Kill His Candidacy – Brookings Institution

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