There's something weird about Bain Capital. It seems that the company was going along doing what ordinary private-equity firms do—buying and selling companies, making lots of money—until about 1999 or so, when things took a sinister turn. At that point, terrible things began to happen. The firms they backed went into bankruptcy, costing thousands of people their jobs, while Bain still walked away with millions in management fees. They invested in companies that profited from outsourcing and offshoring. Who knows, they may have been producing magical hair-thickening elixirs made from the tears of orphans. Every time one of these new revelations comes out, it seems to concern the period after 1999.
In early 1990, as the lackluster California governorship of the lackluster George Deukmejian was running down, the two Democratic front-runners to succeed him were Attorney General John Van de Kamp and San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein—in that order. Then, at the state’s annual Democratic Party convention—a body with no nominating power (that was to be decided in a subsequent primary) but nonetheless a yearly gathering for liberal activists—Feinstein included in her speech a ringing, if otherwise gratuitous, endorsement of the death penalty. Predictably, the delegates booed her. Just as predictably, her standing in the polls quickly shot past Van de Kamp’s and she went on to win the Democratic primary (though she lost the general election to Republican Pete Wilson).
As an attempt to persuade, Mitt Romney’s speech to the NAACP this morning was an exercise in futility. African Americans are loyal Democratic voters and aren’t particularly interested in an agenda of tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts for everyone else. But that wasn’t the point. Romney almost certainly knows that he’ll only win a tiny percentage of black voters in November—at best, he’ll match John McCain's performance in 2008. If current opinion surveys are any indication, it’s more likely that he’ll win fewer African American voters than any Republican in recent history.
Remember when the knock on Mitt Romney was that he's an unprincipled flip-flopper? That seemed like it would be at the very least one foundation of the campaign Barack Obama would run against Romney, if not the primary foundation. It's a potent attack, and there may never have been a candidate more vulnerable to it than Romney. Yet aside from passing remarks here and there, we don't hear much about flip-flopping from Obama and his surrogates anymore.
Instead, it's going to be all money, all the time. Or to put it another way, the Obama campaign's central message will be that Mitt Romney is an out-of-touch rich guy who spent a career screwing ordinary people in his endless lust for profits, and now wants to be president so he can continue to screw ordinary people and reward his rich friends.
Mitt Romney has taken lots of abuse for being an out-of-touch rich guy whose struggles to connect to regular folks often produce comical results. But the stories coming out of Romney's one-day fundraising marathon in the Hamptons (three separate events at the no doubt spectacular vacation homes of Ronald Perelman, Clifford Sobel, and David Koch) on Saturday actually make Romney look good.
Because the thing about Mitt is this: He's trying. He may be terrible at it, but he's making an effort to connect with ordinary people. He talks to them almost every day. Yes, the encounters are awkward and superficial, but he wants to be one of the fellas, and he understands that this is something he could be a lot better at. Whereas the people who came to these fundraisers are actually as pretentious, condescending, and elitist as Democrats would like people to believe Mitt Romney is.
Mitt Romney is back to accusing President Obama of having no plan for economic growth:
The president’s policies have not gotten America working again. And the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it. I know he’s been planning on going across the country and celebrating what he calls ‘forward.’ Well, forward doesn’t look a lot like forward to the millions and millions of families that are struggling today in this great country. It doesn’t have to be this way. The President doesn’t have a plan, hasn’t proposed any new ideas to get the economy going—just the same old ideas of the past that have failed. [Emphasis added]
The latest Public Policy Polling survey of Ohio illustrates my point this morning about the Obama campaign’s effort to keep Romney from consolidating disaffected white voters. Obama still leads Romney in the Buckeye State, 47 percent to 44 percent, but that lead has declined from 50 percent and 49 percent in previous polls.
MSNBC’s First Read has an excellent take on the Romney campaign’s flexibility, or lack thereof:
If there is a constant criticism about Mitt Romney and his campaign from both the left and right, it’s that they’re not nimble – especially when it comes to dealing with issues they’d prefer to ignore. […]
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Much of a president’s job is crisis management, and the only way to succeed is being nimble. That Team Romney seems to struggle with this aspect of the job is a potential warning sign for a challenger against an incumbent president.
Suddenly normally calm economists are talking about 1931, the year everything fell apart. . . . And it’s happening again, both in Europe and in America. . . . None of this should be happening. As in 1931, Western nations have the resources they need to avoid catastrophe, and indeed to restore prosperity — and we have the added advantage of knowing much more than our great-grandparents did about how depressions happen and how to end them. But knowledge and resources do no good if those who possess them refuse to use them.
This week, Mitt Romney joined the pantheon of presidential candidates who have vowed to show up Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 100-day marathon legislation-passing session. But those first 100 days look pretty different depending on which swing state you're in. In ads in North Carolina, Iowa, and Virginia, Romney announces that his first priority is repealing Obamacare—no surprise given that 46 percent of North Carolina residents think Congress was wrong to pass it. No mention of Obamacare in Ohio, though. In this ad, Romney’s first priority is getting the Rust Belt rocking and rolling again.
One mark of a skilled pundit is the ability to take the day's news and mold it to shape his or her own pre-existing interests, beliefs, prejudices, and hobbyhorses. In that spirit, let me offer my thoughts on an interesting article today in the Washington Post, revealing that while Mitt Romney was the head of Bain Capital, the firm invested in companies that specialized in outsourcing jobs overseas. What does this tell us about a potential Romney presidency? Let's look at the facts first, keeping in mind that Romney was at Bain until 1999:
Mitt Romney is running as the Trojan Horse candidate of 2012, the big empty gift to America who will be wheeled into the gates of Election Night only for the bottom to pop out the next morning and whatever lurks inside to reveal itself. Watching his small disaster of an interview on Face the Nation this past weekend, we can only conclude he believes he will win the presidency by answering and offering nothing in the most calculatedly vacuous campaign since Richard Nixon’s in 1968. The difference is that in 1968 the American public knew Nixon all too well and, compared with the specifics of Nixon that people had understood for years, a vague Nixon was considered a step in the right direction.
When you do an apple-to-apples comparison of presidential fundraising last month—donations to Obama vs donations to Romney—it seems that the Obama campaign came out on top, despite what reporters said at the time:
After all the reporting from a couple of weeks ago that Romney outraised Obama in May, well technically that isn’t correct. In the true apples-to-apples comparison for the campaigns, the Obama camp outraised the Romney camp last month, $39.1 million to $23.4 million. What’s more, the Obama camp has $109 million in the bank as of May 31, while the Romney camp has $17 million.
Mitt Romney has a problem. His campaign is centered on the notion that President Obama has been uniquely disastrous for the economy. In his telling, Obama’s policies—including the stimulus and the Affordable Care Act—were responsible for the rapid job losses that marked 2009, and the sluggish growth we’ve seen since then. Indeed, the Romney team routinely hits Obama for losing more than 500,000 jobs over the course of his term. This isn’t true, but that hasn’t stopped Romney from running with the figure.