Can Romney win as 'The Man from Bain'?

The GOP candidate will face his corporate background head on during the GOP convention. Meanwhile, he hasn't gotten quite the Ryan bump he might have hoped for.

By The Fiscal Times Aug 22, 2012 2:06PM
By Eric PianinThe Fiscal Times

When Bill Clinton accepted the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination in New York, he was portrayed in a video as "The Man from Hope," a governor from a small Arkansas town who promised better economic times and more jobs. Then-Texas governor George W. Bush claimed the 2000 Republican presidential nomination in Philadelphia as the man who would beef up national security and restore "dignity and respect" to the presidency.

Next week, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will be presented to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., as "The Man from Bain Capital," or so it would seem from recent media reports.

Romney's advisers are orchestrating a four-day convention that is not so much designed to make Americans like him any more than they do – which is not very much, according to polls – but to enthusiastically embrace the idea of him "as the nation’s leader and a uniquely qualified businessman who can fix the economy," according to The Washington Post.

Instead of glossing over Romney’s career as a private equity executive who made his fortune by buying, overhauling and selling companies, The New York Times says the Broadway-style convention production will highlight the experience that prepared him to become the country’s next economic steward.

Russ Schriefer, a senior Romney adviser, told The Post that while it’s important to convey a sympathetic portrait of Romney, "We're going to talk about what the American people really care about, which is how Governor Romney (can) make their lives better."

For a political team notoriously cautious, Romney and his advisers have seemed more than willing to roll the dice recently to try to shake up the campaign and move ahead of President Obama in an extremely tight race. The choice of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as the vice presidential nominee immediately shifted the ideological contours of the campaign and put Medicare reform and fiscal constraint back on the front burner. So does a convention-week strategy of directly embracing the Bain mantle.

Overhauling the Medicare program for future seniors has never been a political winner for the Republicans, even with the caveats being offered by Ryan and Romney. And the controversy over Bain has haunted Romney politically for nearly two decades, dating back to his unsuccessful challenge of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., in 1994.

"We got to see a riskier side of Romney that challenged his image," veteran Republican pollster John Zogby told The Fiscal Times. "He changed the focus of the debate away from jobs and toward fiscal sustainability. There is now a stark choice, two completely different governing models."

Ron Bonjean, a Republican Washington political consultant, said, "The Ryan choice is like a strong three-month energy drink until Election Day. He brought renewed enthusiasm to a race that was bogged down by gotcha attacks."

This energetic new partnership will be on full display next week, when the two leaders and their large, telegenic families come together in Florida for four days of orchestrated speeches and festivities, with a $2.5 million stage and high-resolution screens as the backdrop.


Many of the speeches at the convention – including the keynote address by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s introduction of Romney – are being drafted to describe how Romney intends to create jobs, slash taxes, eliminate government red tape, boost energy production and sharply reduce the debt. Some of the speeches are almost certain to say that Romney and others at Bain Capital pioneered modern-day business practices – a sort of Darwinian survival of the fittest strategy that eliminated weak performers while promoting cutting-edge and highly successful companies including AMC Entertainment, Staples and Domino's Pizza.

Obama and the Democrats have accused Romney of engaging in a form of vulture capitalism at Bain Capital during the late 1980s and 1990s, which made millions for him and his investors while driving many businesses into the ground. A TV ad aired recently by a group supporting Obama suggested there was a link between the death of a laid-off steelworker’s wife and Romney's former company. Obama tried to distance himself from the ad last week, but he said he intends to keep raising sharp contrasts between himself and the GOP challenger.

Even so, July 19-22 polling by Gallup suggests that the Republicans may be wise to highlight Romney's business experience, including his years at Bain. That poll found that 63 percent of Americans believe that Romney's business background would help him to make good decisions as president in dealing with economic problems, while only 29 percent viewed his business experience as a negative.

Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University, said that rather than worrying about putting a good face on his business background, Romney should release more than the two years of income tax returns he has pledged to make available, to defuse Democratic charges that he has something to hide. Romney said last Thursday that he paid at least 13 percent of his income in taxes each year during the past decade. However, he has steadfastly refused to release more than his 2010 tax return and his 2011 return, which the campaign plans to release before Oct. 15.

"He needs to take the income tax issue head on, which he hasn’t done, and I think that's more important," Baker told The Fiscal Times. "All the boasting about job creation he's going to be given a script for is not going to shut down that issue. And it raises the question, 'What does he have to hide?' That is a real weak spot in that campaign.

If the GOP does its job at the convention and for the balance of the campaign, it will place the economy and jobs – not Romney’s taxes – at the top of voters’ agendas. But that’s a tall order for Romney, who has a long way to go to close the gap in key battleground states. Will "The Man from Bain" change the game?

Eric Pianin is the Washington Editor at The Fiscal Times. Subscribe to The Fiscal Times' free newsletter.

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Aug 22, 2012 7:52PM
Old people aren't foolish. Most of them aren't all that healthy, either.

Everyone should realize that if Republicans repeal "Obamacare" and Romney/Ryan went ahead with the voucher system than about 90% of Medicare eligible folks would be totally SCREWED!
Try going out at age 70 to buy yourself some health insurance with your stinking voucher. So you've got high blood pressure, prostate cancer, osteoporosis or heart disease. Sorry, that's a pre-existing condition which WOULD have been covered under Obamacare, but no longer. We're sorry, but your medications won't be covered, either. And be happy because you didn't have to go before any death panel to arrive at this sorry state.
I think we have to live with a fact about the GOP. The party cannot ever tell people, even their supporters, at least the ones that aren't millionaires, what they will actually do if they have the chance. If they did, they would never elect another Republican to national office. They get away with it in some congressional districts - the ones gerrymandered to the point of idiocy. But, not with most Senate races and definitely not for President.

Consequently the GOP must lie, obfuscate and demonize the opponent to elect a President. We get lies about them wanting to preserve Medicare. They can't tell the truth - they want to eliminate it, they always have. They can't tell the truth about lowering taxes for the wealthy - it's not about creating jobs, it's about taking care of their big donors. They can't tell the truth about global warming - they know it's happening, they don't care because any action to save the planet would hurt profits.
They can't tell the truth about spending - they are not against spending, they just want to spend on the military and their corporate sponsors. The can't tell the truth about the size of government - they don't want a small government, they want a government so big it can police every womb.

To elect a President, Republicans have to lie because no one in their right mind would buy what they are actually selling.
And to the comment that their plan would only affect those under 55 (changed,as a "concession" by Ryan to get the House to pass his budget), well, I'm under 55 (just) and after paying into the plan for the past 35 years, I object, and my parents are not that selfish to not object its effect on their children and grandchildren.
Aug 22, 2012 2:54PM
It doesn't matter who wins the election.  This country is still in the toilet waiting to be flushed.  No great civilization continued to be a great civilization after it lost the ability to export large numbers of goods, and the United States is no exception.  Those in congress have sold this country out to the highest bidder, and those bidders for the last few decades have been moving jobs out of this country.  Personally I don't think anything will change until the United States completely hits rock bottom.
Aug 25, 2012 11:44AM
Let's not forget that Baby Bush kept his wars off the books.
Aug 24, 2012 9:54PM
I will never vote for any Koch brothers candidate.

Aug 24, 2012 9:56PM
Bain documents offer details on Romney holdings
The release of more than 900 pages of internal Bain Capital investment documents by a media website Thursday offered new details on holdings owned by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's family trusts, including offshore account locations and underlying assets.

The confidential records made public by provided financial statements and investor information on 18 Bain investment funds and three hedge funds in which Romney, his wife, Ann, and his children have invested. Some of the funds listed underlying assets that included loans to companies ranging from health care firms to the Las Vegas Sands, the casino owned by major GOP donor Sheldon Adelson. said Thursday that the files "shed a great deal of light" on Bain's funds. A spokesman for Bain told media organizations that the release of the data was an "unauthorized disclosure."

The massive trove of Bain materials adds to the public's knowledge of the inner workings of some of the funds that the Romneys own through family trusts. In several of the funds, the family owns more than $1 million each in holdings. But the documents did not provide any new major revelations about either the Romneys' personal holdings or their tax strategies, and left veteran tax and legal experts speculating on the cache's informational value.

One expert on private equity taxation, University of Colorado law professor Victor Fleischer, said Thursday in a blog posting that the records from one entity, Bain Capital Fund VII LP, a Cayman Islands-based offshore account, showed that the fund's managers appear to have converted their fees from ordinary income to future capital gains. Such a maneuver, Fleischer said, would allow the income to be deferred and taken later at a lower 15 percent capital gains rate.

As of 2011, Ann Romney's blind trust held between $100,000 and $1 million of that fund, according to Romney's 2011 presidential financial disclosure statement.

Aug 23, 2012 11:31PM
bane (b n) n. 1. Fatal injury or ruin
                      2. a. A cause of harm, ruin, or death
Aug 28, 2012 11:05AM
MSN, you are correct in that all the money  (10 million dollars)accumulated did not come from the taxpayers. It is also correct that  without his (and Michelle's)  made up jobs,  the following millions would not have been possible either. My main problem with MSN is that you are carrying the water for this president above all reason, since you try to call yourself a news organization, not a political propaganda resource. .  
Aug 24, 2012 4:28PM
The Obama people cannot stand an American to gain wealth at his own hands, unlike Obama,  Harry Reid, and Pelosi, who gained their wealth from taxpayer funds. 
Aug 23, 2012 11:37AM
I'd rather have someone like Romney than a fool without a birth certificate who thinks that the U.S. has 57 states and whose "educational" records (or is it "indoctrinational" records) are sealed...
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