By Teresa Welsh |
Outsiders may see President Obama's decision to go after Mitt Romney's private equity record at Bain Capital as a high-risk, high-reward strategy that ultimately could cost him—or win him—the presidential election.
But it's not hard to figure out why the president will pursue this tactic. He doesn't have much else to run on, and he's seen it work.
He saw Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, two Republican women who heroically climbed to the top of two of America's best-known companies, brought low by attacks on their wealth in the otherwise disastrous-for-Democrats 2010 cycle.
He saw Newt Gingrich's powerful attacks during the Republican primaries, where direct assaults on Bain propelled the former House speaker to victory in Georgia and South Carolina.
And he saw his own campaign succeed by painting Hillary Clinton as a child—and adult—of privilege in the Democratic primaries in 2008 and questioning how she and former President Bill Clinton amassed their fortune after he left office.
Will it work? Americans have a long history of not envying the rich but wanting to be like them. That has abated in recent years as social mobility has become harder to come by and many have come to distrust Wall Street, but we remain a hopeful nation.
Rather than talk about the jobs created by Bain's investments and the firm's 80 percent success rate with the companies it acquires, Romney should talk about his own success in building Bain Capital from scratch into a successful organization with a great reputation that met a significant payroll and provided a service on which the economy absolutely depends.
He then can talk about how he left Bain to run the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, where he is widely credited with turning impending disaster into smashing success and reviving a state's economy in the process. President Obama can't claim to have revived any economy, despite spending nearly $1 trillion in taxpayer funds to do so.
This presents Romney not as a heartless, well-heeled corporate raider but as savvy manager of small, large, and growing enterprises—perfect on-the-job training for the position he seeks.
The White House is there for the taking. Voters continue to tell pollsters they like President Obama but worry about the frightening amounts of debt he has piled on with little to show for it. His numbers, says ABC News political director Amy Walter, "are like a ticking time bomb. If the economy doesn't improve, and if Romney can present himself as a reasonable alternative, there's nowhere for Obama's numbers to go but down."
Chris Stirewalt of Fox News says, "Romney and Bain were widely seen as very good at what they did, not plunderers but responsible corporate citizens." That's the Bain Romney needs to present. That's the Bain Newark Mayor Cory Booker could not bring himself to criticize Sunday on Meet the Press. And that's a Bain that won't drag down Romney's chances at the White House, no matter how hard President Obama pushes.
About Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Stephanie Slade Project Director at The Winston Group
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Lara Brown Author of 'Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants'
Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research