Political Animal


December 12, 2011 12:30 PM Gingrich discovers the potency of Bain

By Steve Benen

Though he’s repeatedly vowed to avoid negative campaigning, Newt Gingrich took a pretty sharp swipe at Mitt Romney today, using one of Romney’s biggest vulnerabilities against him.

On Fox News earlier, Romney went after Gingrich on the money he received from Freddie Mac. Soon after, campaign reporters asked the disgraced former House Speaker for his response.

For those who can’t watch videos online, Gingrich said:

“I would just say that if Gov. Romney would like to give back all of the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain, that I would be glad to then listen to him. I’ll bet you $10, not $10,000, that he won’t take the offer.”

Ouch. I guess everyone really is taking off the gloves.

Keep in mind, Gingrich’s attack has the benefit of being true. Romney’s private-equity firm enjoyed playing with borrowed money, orchestrating leveraged buyouts, seeking taxpayer subsidies, flipping companies quickly for large profits, and in true vulture-capital style, laying off scores of American workers. Romney was apparently good at it, making money for investors “even when companies slid into bankruptcy.”

I’ve been wondering for a long while why this has been a non-issue in the Republican presidential race. Apparently, that’s changing.

Keep in mind, the potency of the Bain Capitol attack has been utilized by Romney critics in both parties. Ted Kennedy used the issue to great effect in 1994, and Mike Huckabee embraced it in 2007 (“I want to be a president who reminds you of the guy you work with, not the guy who laid you off.”) Gingrich is using it now, and if given the opportunity, President Obama will use it in 2012.

The line stings because it’s true.

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.


Post a comment
  • Stevo on December 12, 2011 12:37 PM:

    It's spelled "Brain"

  • schtick on December 12, 2011 12:50 PM:

    That's my biggest amusement for elections. The skeletons are not only let out of the closet, but they kick the door open in some cases.
    Of course, Gingrich has a walk-in closet.....

    crapcha....Both udgedCz....oh yeah they did

  • rrk1 on December 12, 2011 12:51 PM:

    What could be better than one scoundrel denouncing another? Since Newt's baggage has baggage we can only hope Romney keeps it up and they destroy each other. What will the Rethugs do then?

    Oh, what fun it is to ride to doom on your own record. Fun to watch, that is.

  • DTTM on December 12, 2011 12:53 PM:

    Incredible as it may seem, Gingrich really has at least a 75% chance of getting the nomination. Mitt is fading fast and just can't play the hate game as adroitly as Gingrich. And as we know, the modern Republican base thrives on the hate game. It's all they've got...

  • c u n d gulag on December 12, 2011 1:04 PM:


    And you know the WH is ecstatic, looking at the Fat Philandering Pseudo-Professor as the opposition!

    And Newt will do something egregiously stupid. I just hope it's AFTER he's their nominee!

  • Nanuq on December 12, 2011 1:06 PM:

    Not to mention that not so long ago (Rachel Maddow has the tape), Gingrich was telling reporters that Mitt ought to be thanking him for having gotten the laws passed that made Mitt's vulture capitalist fortune possible.

    So, is Mitt "worse" than Newt in the capitalist stream of things? We report, you decide.

  • Michael on December 12, 2011 1:14 PM:

    I'm afraid the huntsman gingrich debate , is the OUT , for gingrich , and the way to promote their new republican star...

  • Bigtuna on December 12, 2011 1:27 PM:

    Do you think the Gingrich camp reads this blog? See the comments on this topic earlier today :))

  • g on December 12, 2011 1:40 PM:

    wow. Gingrich's "positive" campaign lasted about a nanosecond.

  • KLG on December 12, 2011 1:41 PM:

    Newt is a regrettable human being, but this is a perfect example of how the very serious, consequential game of politics is played. There is a long way to go, but those of us who think a race against Newt would be a stroll in the park should rethink for a moment. He is no more ridiculous that the typical GOP nominee, or a couple on the other side.

  • dweb on December 12, 2011 1:41 PM:


    Notice how adroitly the Newtster totally avoided responding to Mittens charges about his raking in a million plus to teach history lessons to Freddie Mac.

    Just love watching two guys with overwhelming hubris tear each other apart. If Michele just had a bit more support, this would beat Survivor hands down as must see television.

  • DAY on December 12, 2011 1:49 PM:

    After spreading the horse manure for long, bOTH candidates have very fertile fields to plow.

  • jb on December 12, 2011 2:01 PM:

    Steve -- you say you have been wondering for long while why Romney's work at Bain has not been an issue in the Republican primary. Really? Do you think Republican voters have an issue with getting rich by sucking the life out of workers and struggling companies? What is not to like from a Republican perspective?

  • MNRD on December 12, 2011 2:13 PM:

    Newt has taken the "electability" argument away from Mitt. Newt's message to the Republican base is: "See how easily Obama could flay Mitt alive in a general election?" It's amazing how this contest is turning around so quickly. My favorite part is that the Republican establishment is absolutely terrified at the prospect of Newt becoming the Republican nominee. They've spent that past three years going to outlandish extremes to sabotage the Obama Presidency, and the result is that they are going to saddle themselves with a presidential nominee who is so outlandish that he scares them out of their minds!

    Republican Establishment = Dr. Victor Frankenstein

  • Rabbler on December 12, 2011 2:36 PM:

    Only a Republican can successfully bring this up. If Democrats tries it, they are whining, trashing capitalism, or waging class warfare.

  • Lance on December 12, 2011 3:02 PM:

    Didn't Gingrich recently claim that Romney ought to THANK NEWT for his billions, because NEWT made it possible for MITT to get so rich?

    So is NEWT now admitting his guilt in destroying companies and firing Americans?

  • Lloyd Blankfein on December 12, 2011 3:35 PM:

    Ties to Big Money? Interesting...

  • victory on December 12, 2011 5:48 PM:

    I don't see why this should be a problem with Romney. Republican's LOVE Capitalism. Romney showed he is the consummate pro at Capitalism from his time at Bain.

    In the eyes of Republican voters, this should be a plus.

  • Anonymous on December 12, 2011 6:19 PM:

    Gingrich has "repeatedly vowed to avoid negative campaigning," just like the scorpion repeatedly vowed to avoid stinging the frog that gave it a ride across the river. And we all know how that worked out: it's in his nature.

    In the long run, people, like scorpions, are much truer to their nature than to their vows; you could ask one of Gingrich's wives about that . . . .

  • Tom on December 12, 2011 9:17 PM:

    LOAD of CRAP

    Have you ever heard of Staples, The Sports Authority, Brookstone, Domino's Pizza, and Sealy Mattress were all Bain success stories. Get your facts straight. Taking it from Freddies Fat Friend makes you look like silly little fools.

    Don't forget the Olympics.

  • freeholdmom on December 13, 2011 8:25 AM:

    I think the point, Tom, is that Bain's mission was not to create jobs but to make money for its investors,regardless of the gain or loss of jobs. I don't think anybody here is claiming that Bain failed at its mission.

  • manapp99 on December 13, 2011 11:26 AM:

    From Benen's article:
    "Soon after, campaign reporters asked the disgraced former House Speaker for his response."

    Really? So what did Nancy have to say?

  • Sam Iam on December 13, 2011 12:14 PM:

    To Freeholdmom the point is Bain is a VC (Venture Capital) firm NOT an LBO specialist.

    VC's invest money and idea's into companies to grow them and make them more profitable

    whereas LBO's simply borrow money to buy a company in order to sell it off in pieces to make enough money to pay off the loan and make a profit.

    Bain was a large net creator of jobs! VC's are good for jobs and the economy.