Commentary Magazine


Romney’s Strategy: Embrace Bain

Robert Costa reports more details on Mitt Romney’s plan to counter attacks on his Bain Capital record:

On an afternoon conference call, Ed Gillespie, a senior Romney adviser, echoed that message. “We’ll make sure the facts get out there,” he said, including the fact that when GST Steel declared bankruptcy in 2001, Romney was two years removed from Bain Capital and running the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

“There were successes and there were failures; that’s the nature of the private marketplace,” Gillespie said, reflecting on Romney’s role. He acknowledged that some employees may have lost their jobs due to Bain’s management, but only because the firm wanted to grow and sustain the business — not because it wanted to fire workers.

“This White House and president don’t really understand the nature of the private sector,” Gillespie said. Instead of backing away from Romney’s time at Bain, he continued, the campaign will highlight Romney’s successes in the coming weeks, from his leadership at Staples and the Sports Authority to his involvement with Steel Dynamics, a company that, Patrick Brennan reports, grew under Bain Capital’s supervision, building new plants in the late 1990s.

So Romney isn’t ceding the Bain Capital messaging war to Obama, but he doesn’t seem to be taking an aggressively defensive stance against the attack ads, either. Instead, he’s taking the measured and careful approach: embracing the positives of his record at Bain, acknowledging the unavoidable negatives that come with the business, immediately and forcefully pushing back against any inaccuracies in the attack, and highlighting the hypocrisy of the attack based on Obama’s own record.

Clearly the Romney campaign was well prepared for this fight, and even had a web ad ready to go as soon as Obama’s came out. The ad itself, “American Dream,” is  nothing special, and positive ads like these tend to be less effective and less powerful than negative ones. But getting that video out online quickly was crucial. The factual counterbalance is important for the campaign, and so is creating that subtle contrast between the Obama campaign’s negative strategy (a shift from his uplifting ’08 persona) and Romney’s presently positive one.