Bain Returns to the Campaign

The core weakness in Barack Obama’s reelection effort is his poor standing with working-class whites. Obama won only 40 percent of whites without a college degree in 2008, but his strong standing with college-educated whites made up for the deficiency. This time around, the picture is much worse. He’s at 35 percent support with white voters without a college degree, and down with white voters generally. According to the latest survey from Pew, Obama wins 41 percent of white voters—a 2 point decline from 2008.

If Obama can sustain high support from non-whites, then he doesn’t need to match his 2008 performance among whites; 41 percent support is exactly where he needs to be. The challenge is in maintaining that support, which is where Bain Capital comes in. The goal isn’t to win over white voters, it’s to keep them–and particularly working-class whites—from coalescing around Romney. If Obama can keep Romney from reaching George W. Bush-levels of support among white voters, then he has an excellent shot at winning in November.

All of this is to say that Obama stands to make a significant gain from the today’s revelation, from The Washington Post, that Romney oversaw outsourcing while at Bain:

Bain’s foray into outsourcing began in 1993 when the private equity firm took a stake in Corporate Software Inc., or CSI, after helping to finance a $93 million buyout of the firm. CSI, which catered to technology companies like Microsoft, provided a range of services including outsourcing of customer support. Initially, CSI employed U.S. workers to provide these services but by the mid–1990s was setting up call centers outside the country.

Two years after Bain invested in the firm, CSI merged with another enterprise to form a new company called Stream International Inc. Stream immediately became active in the growing field of overseas calls centers. Bain was initially a minority shareholder in Stream and was active in running the company, providing “general executive and management services,” according to SEC filings.

By 1997, Stream was running three tech-support call centers in Europe and was part of a call center joint venture in Japan, an SEC filing shows. “The Company believes that the trend toward outsourcing technical support occurring in the U.S. is also occurring in international markets,” the SEC filing said.

I’m not sure that this will win Obama any votes, but if used well, it could keep disaffected whites from coming to Romney’s side. In which case, he’ll have a hard time winning the states—Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa—that will deliver him the election.