Let me go ahead and stipulate that Mitt Romney has presidential height and hair, and appears to have presidential composure in debates and interviews (at least, when not being mauled by the Great Grizzly of Interviewers, the always fearsome Bret Baier). He also has a history of business success and has the longest private sector career of any participant in the GOP primary – though it’s obviously worth noting that his lengthy private sector career has largely been the result of his utter failure to enter and remain in the public sector, despite trying over and over and over and over again to do so.
However, leaving aside the fact that his positions on most issues have a history of being “multiple choice,” as Ted Kennedy once said, Mitt Romney has two major vulnerabilities to attack – and it just so happens that they are the top two issues of this entire election.
It’s no secret that the key to this election is “the economy, stupid.” This will be a jobs election, an economy election, and – given the Obama administration’s limited but well-worn playbook – a class warfare election. Business success demonstrates a much-needed understanding of what our economy needs to get moving again, but job creation and relatability are at a premium in such an environment, which is why Romney’s Bain experience is such a handicap.
Is the Republican party pro-market? It is and it should be, which is why serious Republican candidates should be careful just how they hit Romney on Bain, if they do it at all. However, anybody who doesn’t think ads like this and videos like this will be running day and night throughout the general election (to great effect on the undecided portion of the blue-collar population) is simply deluding him- or herself. Quite simply, whatever the context and whatever his actual business record, Romney will be hit left, right, and center over the jobs that were eliminated and the people who were put out of work by Bain Capital, and pictures like this will be shown over and over again, until people have had pounded into their heads that Mitt Romney is a wealthy 1%er who bathes in Benjamins and gets his jollies from playing Donald Trump and yelling “you’re fired!” at average Americans.
There’s no question the message war will be unfair and devoid of any context whatsoever that could demonstrate that the Republican nominee isn’t Dr. Evil incarnate. However, Romney’s Bain Capital record basically is sets the ad campaign up on the tee for the Obama campaign and dares them to swing for the fences again and again and again.
This would be bad enough in a “normal” election, when the Republican nominee would (as usual) be painted as a corporatist who cared less about the American economy as a whole than he did about lining the pockets of his corporate fat-cat friends. In an election in which an historically bad economy and historically high unemployment are front and center, choosing a nominee whose record of eliminating jobs can be encapsulated in TV and radio ads, and personified with the faces and voices of those whom Bain Capital put out of work, is simply nonsensical.
Similarly, in an election where a significant amount of passion on the right comes from the prospect of repealing Obamacare, with its bloated price tag, restrictions on patient and citizen choice, and – above all – its legal mandate that citizens purchase approved health insurance, in the state of their residence and at a jacked-up price that results from the community rating that the combination of such a mandate and the requirement that consumers with pre-existing conditions be thrown into the common risk pool makes necessary…and the “inevitable” nominee is a man who boasts a statewide version of virtually the exact same program as the signature legislative achievement of his term as a governor? Just amazing.
This is not to say that Mitt Romney would be the same as Barack Obama if elected (let alone worse), though I’m loath to assume any position or conviction on his part given his history of being so “multiple choice”). In fact, this commentary has little or nothing to do with how Romney would govern if elected; rather, this has only to do with the campaign and what we can expect.
With that being said, let me sum up by making sure I’ve got this right: in an election in which jobs and Obamacare are the top two issues, the “inevitable” Republican nominee is a person whose business career consisted in no small part of eliminating jobs, and whose signature legislative achievement is the enactment of state-run health care. Is that about right?
If so, God help us all.