Bain Capital

The Bain of Mitt's Existence

In an election year certain to be defined by the growing gap between the wealthy and everyone else, Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital—during which he bought and restructured companies for a profit—is a liability. The Romney campaign knows this and has been aggressive in trying to turn Bain into a strength for Romney. In his stump speeches and debate performances, Romney has made Bain the centerpiece of his economic message, and when attacked on his former career, he presents it as a net positive. To wit, here’s how the Romney campaign responded after Newt Gingrich accused him of destroying American jobs: Mitt Romney comes from the private sector, where the economy is built by hard work and entrepreneurial drive. It’s clear that after 30 years as a Washington insider, Newt Gingrich has no clue how the real world economy works. After 25 years in business, Mitt Romney understands how jobs come and go, and what we need to do to get our economy back on track. With the The New York Times ’...

Last-Chance Dance

After a dozen different bouts in venues across the country, the Republican presidential debates have become a little like NASCAR; part of the thrill of watching is that you might see someone go up in flames. But last night, no one did. Mitt Romney stuck to his usual combination of pointed attacks on President Barack Obama—“I don’t think the president understands the private sector, and that some businesses fail”—but refrained from engaging Newt Gingrich or any other candidates on stage. Romney's big moment came when he tried to answer Chris Wallace on the question of his ideological purity. Romney maintained that he was a “reliable conservative” and explained that his deviations, particularly on abortion and gay rights, were the product of circumstance—he was governor of Massachusetts for pete’s sake! Of course, I’m not sure that I would find that reassuring if I were a conservative; in the event that Mitt Romney were elected with a Democratic Congress, would he stand up for...

To Flop or Not to Flop: That is the General Election Question

Time to take an intermission from predicting paths to the GOP nomination and imagine what the GOP's general election campaign could look like. Let's take the two most likely nominees. It's relatively easy to imagine how Gingrich would campaign if he became the GOP candidate: the same way he's campaigned for the last few decades. One of Newt Gingrich's defining qualities as a politician is his unwavering confidence in his own ideas. Part of Gingrich's appeal is when you vote for him, you know what you're going to get. This appeal is also why many assume Gingrich will not ultimately be nominated—the Democratic and Republican elite both think the general public won't like what they see. It is much harder to imagine how a Romney candidacy would unfold. As noted by Christine O’Donnell , who endorsed Mitt Romney last night, Romney's platform has been ideologically consistent since the GOP primaries in 2008. The reason Romney has been been “consistent since he changed his mind” is a symptom...

No One Can Win the Republican Nomination

AP Photo/Eric Gay
With the air going out of the Newtster’s balloon—not surprisingly, as everyone who has ever worked with him (possibly, everyone who has ever met him) has declared him too unstable and egomaniacal to win—the latest smart-money bet in Iowa is Ron Paul, whose libertarian delusions render him unelectable as well. Mitt Romney, having entered that phase of the campaign where he has to campaign among actual people, is trending downward, too. That leaves Jon Huntsman, who can take votes from Romney but not likely from anyone else, and Rick Perry, who can still boast of impressive credentials but who’s still saddled with an unimpressive brain. None of these guys can win, yet one of them must, unless the gods decree that most unlikely of outcomes, a deadlocked convention. None of these candidates has been substantially damaged by his rival candidates. Their unelectability is the result of their own failings and marginalities—theirs, and their party’s, which has required of its nominees a...

Romney Meets Veteran

Stop me if you've heard this one before. So Mitt Romney sits down next to a grizzled, flannel-shirt-wearing Vietnam vet in hyper-conservative Manchester, New Hampshire, and asks him about his service. It's a softball, right, made for the TV cameras? Wrong : But 63-year-old Bob Garon wanted to talk about gays in the military—because he is a gay veteran. Garon was sitting in a booth across from his husband, Bob Lemire, at Chez Vachon, a must-stop diner for politicians looking for votes in the New Hampshire primary. Garon and Lemire eat there nearly every morning. The owners call them "The Bobs." Surrounded by a crush of TV cameras, Romney asked Garon about his tour in Vietnam. But Garon asked if Romney would support efforts to repeal the New Hampshire law that legalized gay marriage in the state and allowed him and Lemire to marry. As the old slogan had it, we're everywhere. This is why we're gonna win. Even grizzled Vietnam vets want their husbands to have equal protection under the...

Upright and Alright

Rick Perry finally found a sense of vigor and cowboy swagger when he took the debate stage at Drake University this weekend. In previous debates, the Texas governor either stumbled his way through inept and forgetful answers, or would just assume a sleepy gaze during the second half with nothing to add to the proceedings. But in the latest contest, he ripped into Mitt Romney, instigating the night's most memorable moment when Romney reached his hand over and offered a $10,000 bet against Perry. Where'd this new fire come from? In an interview with the Des Moines Register 's Kathie Obradovich Perry hinted at one possibility: My back is great. I’m back running again for the last six weeks. I think part of the reason you have seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is my health, and (I’m) both physically and mentally just back in the game. You have fusion on your back, and it takes you a while to get back on your game… I would suggest to you that I was pretty fatigued. No...

Were the Debates a Mistake?

If you can get past the attacks on President Obama, the disregard for actual economic conditions, and the assertion of “philosophical decreptitude” in American liberalism, you’ll find a smart point about the GOP presidential debates in Fred Barnes’s latest op-ed for The Weekly Standard . For your sake, I’ll just post it here: Besides aiding Obama, Republicans have hurt themselves in numerous ways by letting the debates be the organizing events of the campaign. The stronger candidates have been diminished by appearing, debate after debate, on equal footing with also-rans whose chances of winning the party’s presidential nomination are nil. Given the extent to which Barnes is a solid member of the conservative establishment, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were echoing the thoughts of many other conservative elites. The debates have had an astonishing and unprecedented impact on how conservative voters view and evaluate the Republican presidential candidates, and it’s hard to say that...

Ryancare and the Tea Party

Journalists covering Romney’s new position in favor of the Ryan Medicare plan have focused on how this will be a boon for Democrats if Romney gets the nomination. “The reason this matters: It will give Dems a weapon in the general election against Romney,” says Greg Sargent, blogging at the Washington Post . That may be the case. But Romney’s move may not even help him with conservatives, at least judging by our interviews with Tea Party activists . Tea Party members we spoke to perceived Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper, and were unconvinced by his policy changes. They also took electability very seriously, prizing above all a candidate who could beat President Obama. Tea Partiers’ opinions of Romney’s politics were pretty mainstream, often perceiving him as an uncompelling candidate who had switched his positions too frequently. Those we spoke to were aware that Romney had tried to blur his earlier support for a health bill similar to “Obamacare.” A typical comment came from Ellen: “I...

That Didn't Take Long

Yesterday I noted that the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future was launching its ad campaign on a positive note. Sure, their commercial started off by attacking Barack Obama's early career as a community organizer, but it refrained from vilifying Newt Gingrich. That was somewhat unexpected; all signals indicate that Romney's campaign has entered panic mode over Gingrich's unexpected rise in the polls. But disparaging an opponent can backfire. So far the Romney campaign has avoided going negative. The Super PAC, on the other hand, has free reign to impugn Gingrich's integrity and Romney can disavow any influence on the ad (as his campaign must, since legally Super PACs and candidates cannot coordinate their efforts). It didn't take long for Restore Our Future to take the predictable turn. A new anti-Gingrich ad showed up online last night that attacks Gingrich's "baggage." The former House speaker has been accused of ethics violations, took...

Today in Smackdowns

Mitt Romney, speaking to the editorial board of the Washington Examiner : I am very concerned that this president is putting America on a path toward appeasement internationally and entitlement domestically . That we go from being a merit-opportunity society to an entitlement society. And it’s going to require a dramatic change in Washington by someone who knows how to lead. [Emphasis mine] President Obama, speaking to reporters following a Republican filibuster of his nominee for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray: Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22-out-of–30 top al Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever is left out there, ask them about that. [Emphasis mine] Something tells me that Romney’s “appeaser” attack won’t work well in a general election.

Money Changes Everything

It's Iowa poll week, and yet another survey shows Newt Gingrich leading the state. A poll from The New York Times /CBS has Gingrich topping the field at 31 percent, followed by Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, who are essentially tied with 17 percent and 16 percent support, respectively. Those numbers track with other results released earlier this week, though things get more interesting below the topline stats. Mitt Romney might still be trailing Gingrich, but his recent Iowa campaigning could be starting to pay off. He attracts the most support (18 percent) when respondents were asked which candidate is their second choice. If Gingrich's surge starts to falter when the candidates all gang up on him in the coming debates, Romney might pick up some support. Another interesting finding: Iowa may not be the paradise for social conservatives it was thought to be. Just 9 percent of Iowa Republicans listed "social issues" as their most important issue, with "economy and jobs" gobbling up 40...

What to Read Before You Unwonk for the Weekend

Ted Widmer's op-ed on the difficulty of being in the third-year of a presidential administration is beautifully-written, chockfull of wonkalicious presidential history, and very smart. If you're going to read one article before the weekend, make it this one. If you have time to read only two things before the weekend, make this one your second. A member of the one percent refuses the label of job creator, and instead bestows it upon the middle class, and he has a good argument as for why everyone should agree with him. Newt Gingrich may be the current frontrunner, but he hasn’t been raking in many endorsements, which have been shown to be a better predictor of victory than polls. How the primary unfolds will be a good test of this political theory. Women for Herman Cain also like nannies and South African sugar. If he really wanted to salvage his campaign, he obviously should have used one of these images. Things Newt Gingrich likes: being in the lead, old people, the word...

When Endorsements Hurt a Campaign

Mitt Romney is rolling out an endorsement today that, in a more sensible world, would be a major boon to his Iowa. Longtime former Republican Governor Robert Ray is set to announce his support for the campaign on the same day that Romney begins airing his first TV ad in Iowa. Ray served as Iowa's chief executive from 1969 through 1983 and is remembered fondly by most Iowans for his moderate governance, though not all segments of the state's population share that reverence. If any of Iowa's social conservatives were still going to support Romney (the small handful they might be), Ray will drive them further away. The campaign last fall against three Supreme Court judges who legalized same-sex marriage has become a galvanizing force for conservative voters this year. Ray was literally the voice for the weak-willed opposition campaign last fall, speaking on a radio ad that served as the only paid media for the pro-judge groups. "We'll never agree with every call, but you shouldn't fire...

The Anti-Newt Campaign Begins

It was only a matter of time before one of the Republican candidates unloaded on Newt Gingrich, attacking him with all (or at least some) of the reasons rank-and-file Republican voters ought to dislike him. So who was it: Mitt Romney, the man most threatened by Gingrich's rise? Rick Perry, looking to crawl back into the race? Herman Cain, in a last-ditch attempt to save his campaign? Michele Bachmann, hoping to win back the Tea Party voters who loved her for about 12 seconds a few months ago? Nope, none of them. Believe it or not, it was Ron Paul, who delivered 2 minutes and 28 seconds of hurt: The only thing the video doesn't have is an explicit mention of Gingrich's marital history, with its multiple infidelities and trading in of wives for younger mistresses. But most everything else is there, including the famous ad he made with Nancy Pelosi supporting action on climate change, his prior support of an individual health-insurance mandate, his criticism of the sainted Paul Ryan, and...

Have the Curtains Closed for Herman Cain?

Yesterday, Herman Cain suffered another setback to his book tour cum presidential campaign when he announced that he’s been accused of carrying on a 13-year-long extramarital affair. Cain denounced the accusations, but he couldn’t mitigate the damage; at this point, support for his campaign has dwindled to where it was before his surge in October. As a result of this—and the earlier accusations of sexual harassment—the Cain campaign has opted to “reassess” its decision to go forward in the Republican presidential primary. National Review ’s Robert Costas provides the scoop: "When the previous two accusations, false accusations, came about, we made another assessment. The way we handled those was, we continued on with our schedule. We made an assessment about what was going to happen to our support. But our supporters, and even some folks that we didn’t have as supporters, they stood with us, and they showed it not only in terms of their verbal support, they showed it in terms of their...

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