The Bain Factor

Mitt Romney at Bain Capital

I didn’t hear a lot about Bain Capital in the early days of the campaign. Mitt Romney claimed that he was experienced in the private sector and created jobs, and the other candidates let him have that line. Not so much anymore. After a narrow win in Iowa and a commanding win in New Hampshire, the remaining candidates are desperate and are now opening fire at Romney’s private sector record at the head of Bain Capital.

I think that Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital will be one of Obama’s go-to attacks against Romney—claiming that he is a heartless, out-of-touch multi-millionaire who would do anything for a profit. Obama will appeal to emotion and sympathize with those who lost their job after their company was taken-over by Bain. Of course Obama will ignore the Bain success stories, and the fact that those companies may have been on the brink of collapse anyway, but that’s just how the political game is played. It will be hard for Romney to fight the characterization since he doesn’t connect as-well with voters.

I didn’t expect the Bain attacks to come from the Republican side. In the past week I’ve seen Rick Perry describe Bain’s practices as “vulture capitalism” and disparage Bain’s practices of doing business. Perry has said that Bain “picks the bones clean” of companies and focuses only on making money. In addition, Newt Gingrich has called on Romney to explain the Bain employment record. Newt has said that it’s legitimate to ask “how come the big boys made a lot of money and [others] went broke.”

The pro-Newt-Gingrich Super PAC “Winning Our Future” has released a 28-minute documentary entitled “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” which details what happened to four companies which were taken-over and shut-down by Bain. The documentary plays largely on emotion, interviewing and focusing-on the people who were laid off. These folks don’t hold back on Romney—they claim that he doesn’t care about them and one woman talks about losing her home “because of one man that’s got 15 homes.” These are the types of ads I expect to see in the general election against Obama—using the same out-of-touch argument that worked so well in characterizing McCain.

A side-note: It doesn’t appear that Romney actually owns 15 homes. Gingrich has called on Winning Our Future to either fix the inaccuracies in the ad or take it down.

I don’t think that Bain itself is a deal-breaker for Romney—he can continue to point to the success stories such as Staples and explain that the failures were just part of how a free economy works. The real issue is that it plays right into the negative perception that Romney is a greedy, out-of-touch rich guy. Especially in the era of the Occupy Wall Street 99% vs. the 1%, it’s going to be tough for him to lose that perception and connect with voters. Where Obama can talk about the tough times he’s faced and being on food stamps, Romney comes from a wealthy background and won’t be able to “feel the pain” of so many who are struggling. The hope for him is that people will look past these types of personal issues and vote for him just on the basis that he may be able to turn the economy around.

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  • hartwe60  On January 15, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I have to say that something similar happened to my home town and if “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” was shown in my hometown Romney would lose any county near my hometown. I think Obama could just take this video and show it I’m really surprised by this being made by a member of Romney’s own party.

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