Political Animal


June 12, 2011 11:10 AM The anti-jobs candidate

By Steve Benen

My friend Peter Daou had an item the other day, noting the potency of the Republican presidential frontrunner’s message: “Romney is a threat because he can focus on a dead simple message: ‘I’m a successful businessman, I’ll create jobs and fix the economy.’”

That’s exactly right. Mitt Romney, at least this latest version of him, has an entire campaign rationale that fits comfortably into a tweet. Better yet, it’s a message that voters are eager to hear.

Ed Kilgore had a related piece on this the other day, summarizing the argument that Romney and his backers are likely to push aggressively: “Romney has an extensive corporate background, looks the part of a CEO, and without question, he would prefer an issues environment focused on anything other than health care reform or the cultural issues on which he’s never inspired trust among conservatives.”

Romney doesn’t want to talk about health care or the fact that he was a pro-choice moderate who supported gay rights and gun control. Indeed, he would just as soon hope people forget he was even a governor. This is Businessman Mitt, running as a less ridiculous version of Herman Cain.

Kilgore’s argument is that this message is simple and straightforward, but it probably won’t help him in a competitive Republican primary. That’s compelling, but my take is a little different: I think Romney’s biggest problem is that the message brings to the fore his key weaknesses — Romney’s record on jobs is atrocious.

Stephen Colbert devoted a terrific segment to this the other day, highlighting Romney’s “real claim to business fame,” which is “founding a private equity company called BainCapital.” The embed won’t fit the column length of the redesigned website, but here’s the heart of Colbert’s take:

“You see, Romney made a Mittload of cash using what’s known as a leveraged buyout. He’d buy a company with ‘money borrowed against their assets, groomed them to be sold off and in the interim collect huge management fees.’ Once Mitt had control of the company, he’d cut frivolous spending like jobs, workers, employees, and jobs. Just like America’s sweetheart, Gordon Gecko. […]

“Because Mitt Romney knows just how to trim the fat. He rescued businesses like Dade Behring, Stage Stories, American Pad and Paper, and GS Industries, then his company sold them for a profit of $578 million after which all of those firms declared bankruptcy. Which sounds bad, but don’t worry, almost no one worked there anymore.

“Besides, a businessman can’t be weighed down with a bleeding heart, as one former Bain employee put it, ‘It was very clinical…. Like a doctor. When the patient is dead, you just move on to the next patient.’ See? Mitt Romney is like a doctor! [On screen: Dr. Kevorkian]”

And this is the part of Romney’s record he’s most proud of. Romney slashed American jobs as if his career depended on it — and it did.

Complicating matters, during Romney’s only service in public office, his state’s record on job creation was “one of the worst in the country.” Adding insult to injury, “By the end of his four years in office, Massachusetts had squeezed out a net gain in payroll jobs of just 1 percent, compared with job growth of 5.3 percent for the nation as a whole.”

How bad is Romney’s record? During his tenure, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in jobs growth.

Yes, Romney has a simple message: “I’m a successful businessman, I’ll create jobs and fix the economy.” It also comes with an equally simple response: “Mitt Romney is the anti-jobs candidate.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


  • DAY on June 12, 2011 11:20 AM:

    選知 a successful businessman, I値l create jobs and fix the economy.樗

    Mitt's message: 11 words.

    How many in your rebuttal, Steve?

  • berttheclock on June 12, 2011 11:26 AM:

    By all means, let us have a business man or woman leading this nation. Perhaps, the types who own PGE, the electrical company in Portland, OR. Here, we have the highest electrical rates in the PNW. BTW, those busines types at the top of the ownership of PGE are Enron guys.

    Or, perhaps, those business types who ran our auto companies pre-bailout. Or, those business types who laid off American workers and outsourced most jobs.

    Ah, for those heady days of that business man (newspapers) Warren Harding. However, on the flip side, I do recall a former haberdasher, who made a go of it in government.

    Young Mitt, you are light years away from your business man father George. Had only he not have been "brainwashed", you might have grown up in the White House.

  • Anonymous on June 12, 2011 11:28 AM:

    DAY is spot on here. People will know maybe a half dozen things about Romney (Mormon, something about health care, successful businessman, square-jawed, nice white family, and maybe that story about his dog).

    Successful businessman is his all-purpose shield. He'll use it well.

  • ManOutOfTime on June 12, 2011 11:28 AM:

    The know-nothing stupidity loop on jobs is interesting: Republicans know how to create jobs well the president can't really do much about jobs well Obama hasn't created jobs well Bush inherited his mess from Clinton well the economy did more for Clinton than Clinton did for the economy well Reagan's tax cuts spurred job growth well ...

    Repugs are job-killers. American corporations thrive on fantastical cash schemes and instruments and see workers as leeches. Now they're going after public employees and busting unions. What is it they want us all to do exactly? Just go away? Jump into volcanoes? It's so hard for me to imagine narcissism and greed of this magnitude I can hardly believe it's happening. But it absolutely is. Romney is a liar and a scoundrel and is literally a Manchurian candidate: thd Chinese will be rooting for him to win.

  • Grumpy on June 12, 2011 11:31 AM:

    Romney's history also includes his tenure with the Olympics. Maybe as president he'll boost the economy with a constant series of sports events.

  • c u n d gulag on June 12, 2011 11:34 AM:

    Well, we just got done with the MBA Presidency of a not at all successful business man, so the public may figure, "Hey, why not?".

    I think what's really going to hurt Mitt is that he doesn't look like anyone you'd ever want to have a beer with.

    He looks like the guy who fired the best friend you do like to have a beer with.

  • troglodyte on June 12, 2011 11:41 AM:

    cundgulag has it nailed. Shorn of excess wordage:

    Mitt Romney looks like the guy who laid off your best friend.

    12 words.

  • berttheclock on June 12, 2011 11:43 AM:

    Even though he is nine years younger, I suggest Gary Cole could play Mitt in the movie. If, Cole could pull off a "Bill Lumbergh" so well, what would be the difference in playing Mitt?

  • Dennis on June 12, 2011 11:59 AM:

    When Romney challenged Ted Kennedy in 1994, the Kennedy campaign ran lots of TV ads highlighting how Mitt laid off thousands of people. These ads broke open a tight race and Kennedy ended up being re-elected by a comfortable margin.

  • fignaz on June 12, 2011 12:00 PM:

    Bill Maher summed this up pretty well, by responding to the businessman cred by saying:
    "And finally, New Rule: Contrary to what Republican candidates always sell, business experience does not make someone a good President. Honestly, do you people really want to get in this argument with me? George Bush had business experience. There, I win."

  • Michael on June 12, 2011 12:19 PM:

    If the Mittman is elected, how many First Ladies will we have?

    A cheap shot indeed, but those twelve words resonate with a lot of people.

  • Grumpy on June 12, 2011 12:25 PM:

    Michael... According to Steve's last post, that message resonates with 20% of Republican voters. For everyone else, it smacks of religious bigotry.

  • Objective Dem on June 12, 2011 12:32 PM:

    I think you are being unfair to Mitt and the executives at Bain. Sure they fired a large number of employees at the companies they took over. But I'm pretty sure they all increased the number of housekeepers, gardeners, chefs, drivers at their primary residence and at their second house and maybe even the third house.

  • Doctor Biobrain on June 12, 2011 12:34 PM:

    Don't bother with Romney. It's going to be Rick Perry getting the nomination. Frankly, I've never understood why Perry WASN'T always considered the front-runner, other than that he's dumber than bricks and people don't like the last Republican nominee from Texas. But other than that, it's Perry's all the way.

    The only caveat to that is that they might know that Perry doesn't stand a chance against Obama, because he doesn't, and they're only putting him out there now to lay the groundwork for a run in 2016. Kind of like Reagan running in 1976 to be better positioned for 1980; except Perry won't go all-in so he won't look like he failed this go round. But I don't think that's the case. I think he's going for the brass ring.

    This would explain why he's been so involved in national politics while pretending he wasn't interested in the presidency; so he could lay a foundation that Tea Partiers could support without making it look intentional. Of course, once voters see his dismal record, particularly his budget deficits and cuts to key government programs, as well as seeing that the only functional part of his head is his newscaster hair; it's game over against Obama.

    But really, there is no other credible runner for the GOP nomination than Rick Perry. Bank on it.

  • DRF on June 12, 2011 12:37 PM:

    Put aside whether Bain created more jobs than it ended. Let's keep in mind that creating jobs as a business executive has nothing to do with creating jobs as President. Public policy issues are significantly more complex and difficult.

  • jcricket on June 12, 2011 1:36 PM:

    Romney was a corporate raider.

    See? Short and simple.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on June 12, 2011 2:16 PM:

    troglodyte @ 11:41
    Mitt Romney looks like the guy who laid off your best friend.
    12 words.

    Mitt Romney is the guy who laid off your best friend.
    11 words.

  • Taylor on June 12, 2011 2:27 PM:

    Turn your opponent's strength into his weakness. For Romney, it shouldn't take much to expose him on the jobs front. Just run Ted Kennedy's ads against him.

  • ameshall on June 12, 2011 2:34 PM:

    Echoing many previous posts, nothing you've said will matter: way too much information for the average voter. You can be sure that voters will swallow the GOP's nonsense about Romney's ability to rescue the economy hook, line, and sinker. Moreover, many voters may not see Romney's background as a soulless corporate raider who slashed jobs as a negative. More than likely, that will add to his appeal as someone who "will do what's necessary" to get the job done.

  • Dee Cee on June 12, 2011 3:02 PM:

    I think all we have to say is, Romeny founded a company called Bain Capital. What did Bain Capital produce?

  • Anonymous on June 12, 2011 3:10 PM:

    None of this information about Romney particularly matters one way or the other. Presidential elections are referenda on the incumbent party's record, particularly if there's an incumbent running. Obama will stand or fall based on how well voters think he did as a president already, with emphasis on economic conditions.

    The singleminded GOP focus on the deficit was a brilliant strategic move: it allowed them to work as hard as they possibly could at torpedoing the economy while looking as if they were being high-minded.

    Only now is it dawning on the administration that they may be heading into their reelection campaign with close to 10% unemployment. Brilliant.

  • JW on June 12, 2011 3:11 PM:

    Digby pointed out just yesterday that "Civic pride, even nationalism, are no longer operative among the global financial elites. They just don't care".

    Money doesn't talk, it swears.

    Off Topic: If it's truly necessary that this website require typing in blurred text in order to post a comment, at least insure that text is readable. Half the time the "words" are blurred unto being indecipherable.

  • jheartney on June 12, 2011 3:12 PM:

    Oops, the Anonymous at 3:10 was me.

  • cld on June 12, 2011 3:13 PM:

    Mitt Romney --professional swindler.

    That's a great slogan.

    Mitt Romney --Keepin' Legal!

  • JS on June 12, 2011 4:13 PM:

    Stephen Colbert devoted a terrific segment to this the other day... The embed won't fit the column length of the redesigned website


  • JS on June 12, 2011 4:17 PM:

    (also, "blockquote" formatting looks perfect in the preview, but gets frapp馘 when you enter the captcha and it posts on the page - this re-design is sooooo full of "win".)

  • demisod on June 12, 2011 5:26 PM:

    Humph! It's not Mitt's fault he is the epitome of contemporary American business management. It worked out well for him didn't it? So be obviously knows what he's doing. More than you can say for Newt.

  • grandpajohn on June 12, 2011 5:49 PM:

    Yep just what we need another MBA CEO president. Anybody remember how well the last MBA president worked out for us?

  • John R AKA Mr Serf Man on June 12, 2011 6:24 PM:

    I知 a successful businessman, I値l create jobs and fix the economy.樗

    Rick Scott told us the same thing here in Florida.

    Don't you dare ask "How's that workin out for ya"

    So far he has Un-created 5000 government jobs 4000 teachers jobs and managed to avoid any that would have been created by the $ 2.4 billion high speed rail money he refused.

    If he had done nothing we would be better off.

  • Doug on June 12, 2011 7:07 PM:

    Let Mr. Romney try and run on a "jobs" platform. He's never produced any before and is responsible for the destruction of hundreds if not thousands of jobs. Let him explain THAT.
    We might want to find out who Sen. Kennedy used for HIS ad campaign since I don't know how to tell it in a 30-second political advertisement, but it's obvious that Romney's managerial style represents the main problem with too many businesses nowadays - allowing short-term bottom-line figures to replace long-term growth strategies to the detriment of all concerned. That also summs up the Republican political strategy in a nutshell.
    Anyone can get a company to "show a profit", by cutting expenses; ie, jobs, inventory. However, it takes actual work to increase a business' sales and it's obvious that is NOT one of Romney's attributes.
    While Romney can PROMISE to create all the jobs he wants to, it's clear he's nothing but Gordon Gecko in weird underwear...

  • Neil B on June 12, 2011 7:45 PM:

    That's hilarious. A corporate CEO's job* is (not that it should be) to maximize company profits and that might include reducing labor costs - including how many work there - as much as possible using tools and tricks like outsourcing, making a few remaining employees do more work, etc. We don't need an ex-CEO, we need a labor leader, "community organizer", anyone in the sciences where objectivity and telling the truth matter most, and so on.

    *Note to disconcerted conservatives: since society grants a non-inherent privilege of limited liability and fictitious legal semi-personhood on corporate entities, we can actually demand the quids pro quo that we want - like them serving the public interest as a condition for being chartered. That whole legal argument is the most explosive and most covered-up insight and proposal in the world.

  • patrick II on June 13, 2011 3:30 AM:

    ...and what would Mitch Romney's business plan be? Tax cuts. It amazes me that Mitch complains about Obama not taking a leadership position on the economy and jobs, saying Obama doesn't have a plan, and that he (Romney) does have a plan and it will help the economy.

    And what is Romney's plan? Tax cuts.

    Wow. He had better add something to that fairly quickly. And here is the thing, If Romney does promise to do something about the economy, even if he has good ideas, Romneys win will bring in more republican senators and congressman. They will not vote for any of Romney's fancy ideas anyway, all they want is tax cuts.

  • ppcli on June 13, 2011 11:07 AM:

    Troglodyte had a good one:
    Mitt Romney looks like the guy who laid off your best friend.
    (12 words)

    May I suggest a small improvement:

    Mitt Romney is the guy who laid off your best friend.
    (11 words)

  • grape_crush on June 13, 2011 3:39 PM:

    Mitt Romney is for jobs what ebola is for weight management.

  • Dave from Quincy on June 13, 2011 4:32 PM:

    Mittler's pitch, when he was running for governor:"As soon as I'm elected, I'll travel all over the country selling Massachusetts to my business friends." Instead, not too long after he got elected, he traveled all over the country trying to propitiate Republican voters by making fun of Massachusetts.

    People here do not remember Mittler fondly.