Commentary Magazine


Romney’s Record at Bain Capital

Mitt Romney’s executive experience, especially in the private sector, is the key pillar of his presidential campaign. As his advertisements already indicate, he will focus specifically on the national unemployment picture and work to convince voters President Obama’s policies have been job killers, and that he’ll be a job-creating president.

But the one obstacle in the way of that narrative is that for Romney, as head of the private equity firm Bain Capital, fixing companies’ finances often meant shedding jobs–at least at first. As Bloomberg put it, “It’s a facet of his career that presents a particular challenge for the Republican primary frontrunner: Tough business decisions don’t necessarily translate into good politics.” That fact will undoubtedly come up in the general election if Romney is the nominee–though it will probably be raised by one of Romney’s GOP rivals as the field narrows. Romney will have to have a defense at the ready, and it seems he has found that defense:

I know that the Obama people would like to try and make an issue of the fact that in the private sector, sometimes jobs go. But that happens to be one more indication of their lack of understanding of how the private sector and the business sector work. Of course some businesses fail. During my tenure at Bain Capital, for instance, we invested in over 100 different companies. Not all of them succeeded. The great majority were able to add jobs, and on a total basis, we helped create tens of thousands of jobs.

Romney said this in an interview with the Des Moines Register. The interview was mostly about the economy and Romney’s campaign strategy in addressing the issue. He went on to say he’s learned from his time in the private sector–and from the conditions that led to some of those companies’ downsizing–what works and what doesn’t. In essence, his argument boils down to: I know how jobs are created and destroyed and can apply those lessons to both create jobs and ensure existing jobs aren’t destroyed.

He is also able to cite well-known successes while at Bain: Staples, Domino’s Pizza and the Sports Authority. Romney will likely tout his experience in turning around the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, as well as the fact the unemployment rate in Massachusetts dropped from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent during his tenure, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. His message will be he has already shown he is able to successfully apply what he learned in the private sector to the public sector.

It may be his best option strategically. It remains to be seen whether it will win the hearts of anxious “Main Street” voters–or those currently unemployed–who may be wary of Romney’s record at Bain.