Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bain Capital

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.

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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.

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Attacks Begin on Romney’s Bain Record

The Obama campaign is starting to roll out its attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, including the predictable emotional testimony from workers who were laid off by companies Bain was trying to save from collapse. The campaign’s newest ad is powerful, though it’s already old news if you followed Newt Gingrich’s nearly identical attacks on Romney during the primaries.

But while Romney seemed blindsided by Gingrich’s (unsuccessful) anti-Bain assault, he’s clearly ready for this attack line from Obama. There are already doubts being raised about the facts in the ad, which implies that Romney was at Bain when GST Steel went under. But as the Christian Science Monitor reports, he had already left the company:

Plus, the ad elides some facts: Romney left Bain shortly after it acquired GST Steel, though he continued to receive profits from Bain payouts. He wasn’t around when GST went under. Also, it was an era when cheap foreign imports were hitting U.S. steel firms hard, in general. It’s not clear whether GST would have survived in any case.

And some conservatives say the Obama team rolled out this line of attack too early. It gives the Romney camp plenty of time to respond prior to November.

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The Obama campaign is starting to roll out its attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, including the predictable emotional testimony from workers who were laid off by companies Bain was trying to save from collapse. The campaign’s newest ad is powerful, though it’s already old news if you followed Newt Gingrich’s nearly identical attacks on Romney during the primaries.

But while Romney seemed blindsided by Gingrich’s (unsuccessful) anti-Bain assault, he’s clearly ready for this attack line from Obama. There are already doubts being raised about the facts in the ad, which implies that Romney was at Bain when GST Steel went under. But as the Christian Science Monitor reports, he had already left the company:

Plus, the ad elides some facts: Romney left Bain shortly after it acquired GST Steel, though he continued to receive profits from Bain payouts. He wasn’t around when GST went under. Also, it was an era when cheap foreign imports were hitting U.S. steel firms hard, in general. It’s not clear whether GST would have survived in any case.

And some conservatives say the Obama team rolled out this line of attack too early. It gives the Romney camp plenty of time to respond prior to November.

The Romney campaign also has the advantage of a good counter-argument against Obama, who, as it so happens, also ordered GM and Chrysler to close thousands of dealerships during the auto bailout. Jim Geraghty writes that the Obama campaign may have a hard time pushing back on this:

I’m sure Obama fans will insist, “but the layoffs under our guy are completely different!” They’ll insist that in order to preserve the entire institution during a time when its continued operation was jeopardized, it was necessary to lay off certain branches and employees… which is, of course, precisely what Bain Capital was doing, or at least what the management of Bain Capital believed it was doing.

The line between heartless, cruel sacrifices of hardworking Americans to corporate greed and necessary sacrifices to ensure continued viability of a company in a competitive market is often in the eye of the beholder.

This could be why the Obama campaign is rolling out the Bain attack so early. They probably realize that Romney has a pretty strong counterattack, and know the anti-Bain argument will only get weaker as the election season progresses and Romney becomes more of a known entity. Right now, Obama hopes he can put that “Romney is a callous rich guy” image in the minds of voters before Romney is able to define himself to the public.

But this was also supposed to be one of Obama’s strongest lines of attack against Romney. The fact that Obama’s playing this card so early in the election, when many voters aren’t even paying attention yet, doesn’t seem to bode well for his campaign. He’s been able to successfully dominate the news cycle with one distraction issue after another, but how many more tricks does he have until that bag is empty?

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Romney’s Real Bain Problem

Today’s New York Times story on Bain Capital and China is a perfect example of how Mitt Romney’s ties to the firm will continue to be a headache for him, even when everyone agrees he has done nothing wrong and is not responsible for any questionable behavior.

That is the case with this story, in which long after Romney left Bain, a company fund purchased a Chinese company that supplies the Chinese government with cameras that are almost certainly being used, in part, to monitor and suppress dissidents. This particular story, however, is not about protecting dissidents but rather tying Romney to Bain’s activity. Romney’s family has a blind trust that has holdings in the fund that bought the Chinese company, though by definition the family had no say in the investment. Though the headline targets Romney, here are a few quotes from throughout the story that Romney’s detractors should keep in mind:

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Today’s New York Times story on Bain Capital and China is a perfect example of how Mitt Romney’s ties to the firm will continue to be a headache for him, even when everyone agrees he has done nothing wrong and is not responsible for any questionable behavior.

That is the case with this story, in which long after Romney left Bain, a company fund purchased a Chinese company that supplies the Chinese government with cameras that are almost certainly being used, in part, to monitor and suppress dissidents. This particular story, however, is not about protecting dissidents but rather tying Romney to Bain’s activity. Romney’s family has a blind trust that has holdings in the fund that bought the Chinese company, though by definition the family had no say in the investment. Though the headline targets Romney, here are a few quotes from throughout the story that Romney’s detractors should keep in mind:

  • “Mr. Romney has had no role in Bain’s operations since 1999 and had no say over the investment in China.”
  • “In a statement, R. Bradford Malt, who manages the Romneys’ trusts, noted that he had put trust assets into the fund before it bought Uniview. He said that the Romneys had no role in guiding their investments. He also said he had no control over the Asian fund’s choice of investments. ”
  • “Bain employees have also made substantial contributions to Democratic candidates, including President Obama. ”
  • “Most video surveillance equipment is not covered by the sanctions, even though a Canadian human rights group found in 2001 that Chinese security forces used Western-made video cameras to help identify and apprehend Tiananmen Square protesters. ”
  • “ ‘A lot of the stuff we’re talking about is truly dual use,’ said Mr. Reinsch, a former Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration. ‘You can sell it to a local police force that will use it to track down speeders, but you can also sell it to a ministry of state security that will use it to monitor dissidents.’ ”

“Dual use” seems to me a pretty weak defense, for the Chinese government’s brutal repression of its citizens is widely known. (No thanks to the New York Times, of course.) But if the Romneys did nothing wrong, why put his name in the headline? The reason to do so is to saddle Romney with Bain’s baggage. It may be misleading and dishonest (politics ain’t bean bag, I think Romney has himself said on separate occasions), but it does draw attention to how this has hindered Romney’s election bid.

When Newt Gingrich bought the rights to an excruciatingly silly movie about Bain, there were reasons to dismiss it. The trailer, for example, featured a woman suggesting that Romney had roving death squads to silence former employees. (The death squads thankfully never materialized.) In addition, two of the four companies featured in the film as being victims of the firm’s profit motive were not under Romney’s management at the time.

A clip in the movie was portrayed as Romney getting his shoes shined on the runway before boarding a plane, but was actually Romney getting wanded by security. In the end, the movie turned out to have portrayed its subject about as accurately as “Game Change” portrayed Sarah Palin and her handlers–that is, as a caricature based on liberal conventional wisdom.

But perception is a tricky thing, especially in politics. If the left can successfully portray Bain Capital as operating with nefarious intent and questionable practices, it won’t matter much whether Romney was involved in particular cases. People will wonder what in the world he was doing running a company like that. The Romney campaign has seemed ill-prepared throughout this campaign to deal with Bain-related roadblocks. This article is just a taste of why they don’t have that luxury.

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Romney’s Real Riches

I don’t care how many Cadillacs Mitt Romney owns, how many earmarks he requested, or how many individual mandates he approved. This is an extraordinary man.

We first heard about it in the 2008 campaign: how Romney saved the teenaged daughter of a Bain Capital colleague in 1996. Here’s what Mitt did when he learned the girl had gone missing after sneaking from her home in Connecticut to a party in New York City: he shut down the whole office and flew the staff from Boston to New York; he had fliers printed up and got employees at Duane Reade (in which Bain invested) to stuff one into every customer’s bag; he set up a phone hotline; he personally, along with his Bain people and their New York accountants and lawyers, pounded the city’s pavements looking for the girl and asking teenagers if they’d seen her. After a few days of all this – and the publicity it generated – they traced the hotline call of someone asking for a reward and found the girl, who had overdosed on Ecstasy, in the basement of a New Jersey home.

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I don’t care how many Cadillacs Mitt Romney owns, how many earmarks he requested, or how many individual mandates he approved. This is an extraordinary man.

We first heard about it in the 2008 campaign: how Romney saved the teenaged daughter of a Bain Capital colleague in 1996. Here’s what Mitt did when he learned the girl had gone missing after sneaking from her home in Connecticut to a party in New York City: he shut down the whole office and flew the staff from Boston to New York; he had fliers printed up and got employees at Duane Reade (in which Bain invested) to stuff one into every customer’s bag; he set up a phone hotline; he personally, along with his Bain people and their New York accountants and lawyers, pounded the city’s pavements looking for the girl and asking teenagers if they’d seen her. After a few days of all this – and the publicity it generated – they traced the hotline call of someone asking for a reward and found the girl, who had overdosed on Ecstasy, in the basement of a New Jersey home.

The New York Times is treating the campaign’s current retelling of the story with predictable snide cynicism (“Pressed for Anecdote, Romney Recounts Tale of Missing Girl”); and — surprise, surprise – is trying to gin up some controversy around the ad one of his super PACs is running about it.

The Washington Post describes it thus:  “Mitt Romney is striving to show voters that he is more than the Mitt Romney they think they know. He wants to demonstrate that he’s human, too.”

Um.  He is?  Really??  Who’d have thunk???

Now, I’ve been working for a few decades, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really nice bosses and colleagues. But I can’t imagine a single one of them going so far just to help me – not to mention having the calm wherewithal to come up with a workable and effective plan.   And I can’t quite imagine our great philanthropists Warren Buffett and Bill Gates doing it either. Or even that paragon of humanness, Barack Obama himself.

Yes, it’s true that the campaign is using the story to counter the rich-technocrat Romney caricature promoted by opponents on the left and the right. But that’s what campaigns are supposed to do, isn’t it? One can only wonder why it’s taken them so long. Could it be a certain – gasp – modesty on the part of the candidate? Or possibly a reluctance to parade the teen trauma of someone who may well be a happy and healthy young woman today? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Mitt Romney isn’t just human; he’s a very good, decent human. And we could do much, much worse than that in a president.

 

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Say Goodnight, Newt

Here are two sentences that buttress the argument of those of us who said Newt Gingrich was temperamentally unfit to be president by virtue of his chronic indiscipline, erratic style and lack of philosophical grounding. It comes from Michael Moore, perhaps the most visible and harshest American critic of capitalism in the last couple of decades.

In commenting on Newt Gingrich’s assault on Bain Capital specifically and capitalism more broadly, here is what Mr. Moore said: “I wondered who they stole from my crew. It was fun to hear what I have been saying for 20 years, not just by any Republican candidate, but Newt Gingrich.””

Say goodnight, Newt.

 

Here are two sentences that buttress the argument of those of us who said Newt Gingrich was temperamentally unfit to be president by virtue of his chronic indiscipline, erratic style and lack of philosophical grounding. It comes from Michael Moore, perhaps the most visible and harshest American critic of capitalism in the last couple of decades.

In commenting on Newt Gingrich’s assault on Bain Capital specifically and capitalism more broadly, here is what Mr. Moore said: “I wondered who they stole from my crew. It was fun to hear what I have been saying for 20 years, not just by any Republican candidate, but Newt Gingrich.””

Say goodnight, Newt.

 

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A Chance to Defend Democratic Capitalism

I’ll be very interested in tonight’s GOP presidential debate, in part to see if Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry go after Mitt Romney based on his association with Bain Capital. I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to avoid the topic (Gingrich did during his appearances in South Carolina on Sunday). Why? Because it’s clear the attacks on Bain — which conservatives rightly understood as an assault on enterprise and democratic capitalism — backfired badly on both men. They’ve been pounded by non-RINOs  like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michelle Malkin, James Taranto, Charles Murray, Mark Steyn, National Review, Club  for Growth, and many more.

The tack taken by Gingrich and Perry qualifies as one of the more inexplicable campaign decisions I can recall; the product, if one wants to be generous, of desperation. (The “King of Bain” video may be the most comical piece of campaign propaganda I have ever seen, something you’d expect from a person with Michael Moore’s views and one-tenth of his talent. It has been utterly destroyed by fact checkers.)

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I’ll be very interested in tonight’s GOP presidential debate, in part to see if Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry go after Mitt Romney based on his association with Bain Capital. I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to avoid the topic (Gingrich did during his appearances in South Carolina on Sunday). Why? Because it’s clear the attacks on Bain — which conservatives rightly understood as an assault on enterprise and democratic capitalism — backfired badly on both men. They’ve been pounded by non-RINOs  like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michelle Malkin, James Taranto, Charles Murray, Mark Steyn, National Review, Club  for Growth, and many more.

The tack taken by Gingrich and Perry qualifies as one of the more inexplicable campaign decisions I can recall; the product, if one wants to be generous, of desperation. (The “King of Bain” video may be the most comical piece of campaign propaganda I have ever seen, something you’d expect from a person with Michael Moore’s views and one-tenth of his talent. It has been utterly destroyed by fact checkers.)

Whatever animated the attacks, they appear to have helped Governor Romney, who is rising in the polls both nationally and in South Carolina.  And InsiderAdvantage poll released last night, for example, finds Romney with the support of 32 percent of  likely GOP voters surveyed, a nine-point gain from its last poll, taken on  January 11. “The only candidate to really gain any ground in this survey since our poll of last Wednesday night is Mitt Romney,” said InsiderAdvantage chief pollster Matt Towery to Newsmax.

Romney, having been bequeathed this unexpected gift by Gingrich and Perry, should take  advantage of it. I for one would be delighted to hear a leading Republican (outside of Representative Paul Ryan) make a powerful moral defense of democratic capitalism, to explain how it has lifted more people from poverty and destitution than any other economic system in human history, and why wealth creation is a moral good. The tendency in a campaign is to lay out a series of policy proposals, which are certainly important, but not to ground those policies in a political philosophy, which is equally important.

I’ve always thought that voters, even (and maybe especially) in the midst of a primary campaign, appreciate public figures who take the time and care to articulate a public philosophy. Not all the time, of course, but from time to time. It it what Ronald Reagan did supremely well and helps explain why he reshaped the conservative movement and American politics in such deep and lasting ways.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, having last week unleashed an extraordinary attack on capitalism, have now provided an opening to Romney (and Rick Santorum, as I argued last week). There’s every reason in the world for conservatives to defend and champion democratic capitalism, not superficially but in depth, in a manner that is both intellectually serious and touches the human heart. It actually can be done — see Reagan and Margaret Thatcher for more — and I hope someone in the current GOP field dares to try.

 

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A Bit Late: Gingrich Calls for Bain Ad Withdrawal

Does this serve any practical purpose, beyond a face-saving move for Newt Gingrich? The ad has already been running in South Carolina since Thursday, and even if “Winning Our Future” agrees to take it off TV, it’s still enshrined on the internet for the rest of time. I guess it takes the force out of the charges now that Gingrich is conceding a lot of them are inaccurate – but is it enough to make much of a difference between now and the primary?

On a related note, check out the New York Times’s lede on this story. What’s the chance they would have published a story this sympathetic to Mitt Romney if the ad was put out by “Priorities USA” instead of a pro-Newt group?

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Does this serve any practical purpose, beyond a face-saving move for Newt Gingrich? The ad has already been running in South Carolina since Thursday, and even if “Winning Our Future” agrees to take it off TV, it’s still enshrined on the internet for the rest of time. I guess it takes the force out of the charges now that Gingrich is conceding a lot of them are inaccurate – but is it enough to make much of a difference between now and the primary?

On a related note, check out the New York Times’s lede on this story. What’s the chance they would have published a story this sympathetic to Mitt Romney if the ad was put out by “Priorities USA” instead of a pro-Newt group?

Misleading and exaggerated claims in a film portraying Mitt Romney as a heartless job killer led Newt Gingrich to ask on Friday that the group behind it change or withdraw it, even though Mr. Gingrich is the intended beneficiary of the film.

“I’m calling on them to either edit out every single mistake or to pull the entire film,” Mr. Gingrich said at the opening of a campaign office in Orlando during a swing through the critical primary state of Florida. “They cannot run the film if it has errors in it.”

But the group running the video, the pro-Gingrich “super PAC” Winning Our Future, made no move to alter the work.

Here are some more quotes from the Times piece, just because it’s so surprising to see the paper fiercely defending Romney’s record at Bain. Maybe it really was a stroke of luck for Team Romney that the Bain controversy is blowing up for the first time during the primaries rather than during the general election:

The film is a political screed in the classic sense, a digital prosecution against Mr. Romney as a “corporate raider” whose business was “killing jobs for big financial rewards.” Over forbidding music, the baritone announcer says, “Nothing was spared; nothing mattered but greed.”

But Mr. Romney was not counted among the infamous corporate raiders of the 1980s, like Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky. While his claim on the campaign trail to have created a net 100,000 jobs has come under question, and many did lose jobs because of Bain’s dealings, Mr. Romney’s tenure there was not marked by the wholesale liquidation of businesses that the film suggests.

If even the Times is acknowledging it’s deceptive to portray Romney as a “heartless job killer” who oversaw a “wholesale liquidation of businesses,” then what does this mean for the Bain attacks the Obama campaign was supposedly going to launch later on? There are still the legitimate questions about the 100,000 jobs Romney says he created, but that line of attack doesn’t relate to his core character – and it’s not like Obama doesn’t have his own dubious job-creation numbers to worry about.

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What’s Driving Down Romney’s South Carolina Poll Numbers?

Something seems to be chipping away at Romney’s poll numbers in South Carolina, but right now it’s still anybody’s guess what that is. The anti-Bain ads should be a top suspect, but several media outlets trekked to the South Carolina town that was apparently devastated by Bain’s “vulture capitalism,” and found that most people they talked to barely even remembered the company. The New York Times reports:

In a new barrage of political advertisements and speeches here, three of Mr. Romney’s opponents in South Carolina’s primary on Jan. 21 have used Gaffney and Bain’s business practices in other communities across the country as a kind of battering ram to portray him as a job-destroying robber baron. …

There is a problem, though. Here in Gaffney, where deeply held Christian beliefs often matter more than jobs, few remember the Holson Burnes photo album plant, let alone the devastation its closing is alleged to have caused back in 1992. …

At The Gaffney Ledger, a newspaper established in 1894 that seems to cover everything from stolen mopeds to the Y.M.C.A. basketball league, the publisher, Cody Sossamon, looked through old microfilm to refresh his memory. He could not find one drop of ink that was spent on the factory closing.

“Nobody here really cares about that. It wasn’t a big deal,” Mr. Sossamon said. “We’re looking for a new school superintendent. That and the economy are what people really care about right now.”

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Something seems to be chipping away at Romney’s poll numbers in South Carolina, but right now it’s still anybody’s guess what that is. The anti-Bain ads should be a top suspect, but several media outlets trekked to the South Carolina town that was apparently devastated by Bain’s “vulture capitalism,” and found that most people they talked to barely even remembered the company. The New York Times reports:

In a new barrage of political advertisements and speeches here, three of Mr. Romney’s opponents in South Carolina’s primary on Jan. 21 have used Gaffney and Bain’s business practices in other communities across the country as a kind of battering ram to portray him as a job-destroying robber baron. …

There is a problem, though. Here in Gaffney, where deeply held Christian beliefs often matter more than jobs, few remember the Holson Burnes photo album plant, let alone the devastation its closing is alleged to have caused back in 1992. …

At The Gaffney Ledger, a newspaper established in 1894 that seems to cover everything from stolen mopeds to the Y.M.C.A. basketball league, the publisher, Cody Sossamon, looked through old microfilm to refresh his memory. He could not find one drop of ink that was spent on the factory closing.

“Nobody here really cares about that. It wasn’t a big deal,” Mr. Sossamon said. “We’re looking for a new school superintendent. That and the economy are what people really care about right now.”

Politico visited Gaffney and found basically the same thing. Though the paper did manage to track down one disgruntled former employee at a Bain-owned plant who was willing to speak out against the company’s practices:

“As far as I’m concerned, it left a very bad taste in my mouth,” said Bob Hayler, who ran the plant shortly after it opened in 1988. “They’re somewhat cutthroat. I’ve worked for a lot of managers over my years but they were almost an angry bunch….They were yellers. They were screamers. There were just huge demands.”

And yet…apparently not a bad enough taste to convince the guy to vote against Romney:

Now retired , Hayler says he’s “more of an independent” than a Republican, but could still see himself voting for Romney, the alleged “vulture” capitalist.

“I don’t know whether I’d vote for the man or not, but in a primary, I probably would, because he’s not as far to the right as the rest of them,” Hayler said.

The thing is, if Bain isn’t what’s driving down Romney’s poll numbers, then what is? It’s certainly possible that South Carolina voters who aren’t from Gaffney might still be turned off by the ads. Then again, the angry reception Gingrich’s Bain attacks received at Huckabee’s forum seem to suggest they’re not playing particularly well with South Carolina voters in general.

Of course, Romney’s also been under fire for his flip-flops on abortion – an issue that will obviously resonate in the socially-conservative state.

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Gingrich Backs Off on Bain Attack

After a week of increasingly harsh attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record, Newt Gingrich may have finally recognized he has gone too far. According to Politico, when asked to reconsider his attempt to brand the Republican frontrunner as a “predatory capitalist” by a Rick Santorum supporter at a South Carolina event, Gingrich admitted it was a mistake:

“I’m here to implore one thing of you. I think you’ve missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses. I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenousness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market. I think it’s nuanced,” Dean Glossop, an Army Reservist from Inman, S.C., said.

“I agree with you,” Gingrich said. “It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect. … I agree with you entirely.”

But it remains to be seen whether supporters of the former speaker will get with the program.

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After a week of increasingly harsh attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record, Newt Gingrich may have finally recognized he has gone too far. According to Politico, when asked to reconsider his attempt to brand the Republican frontrunner as a “predatory capitalist” by a Rick Santorum supporter at a South Carolina event, Gingrich admitted it was a mistake:

“I’m here to implore one thing of you. I think you’ve missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses. I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenousness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market. I think it’s nuanced,” Dean Glossop, an Army Reservist from Inman, S.C., said.

“I agree with you,” Gingrich said. “It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect. … I agree with you entirely.”

But it remains to be seen whether supporters of the former speaker will get with the program.

A pro-Gingrich super PAC has made a $3.4 million airtime buy in South Carolina for a documentary that portrays Romney’s career at Bain Capital in a negative light. The blowback from what many conservatives consider a leftist line of argument pursued by Gingrich and Rick Perry has hurt them more than the charge has damaged Romney. If the documentary airs after Gingrich’s admission that the line of attack is inappropriate, the controversy could prove to be yet another setback for his faltering campaign.

The attack was the product of Gingrich’s bitterness at the negative ads run by pro-Romney super PACs that highlighted negative aspects of his record. But the revenge that Gingrich attempted to exact said a lot more about his hypocrisy and well-known intolerance for criticism than anything else. Though some conservatives defended Gingrich’s decision to portray Romney as a heartless plutocrat laying off defenseless workers on the grounds that the Democrats were bound to use it anyway, even some of Romney’s critics were repelled by the tactic that struck them as adopting the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

By now admitting his mistake, Gingrich might help get the conversation in South Carolina back to Romney’s weaknesses to conservatives such as his flip-flops on social issues and health care. But if the film airs and Gingrich tries to rationalize it or distance his candidacy from the attack, it will make him look even worse than if he had never disavowed it. Ironically, though Gingrich claims he is the “true conservative” running against a moderate, so long as Republicans are discussing this issue, Romney can put himself forward, as he did last night in his New Hampshire victory speech, as a defender of free enterprise against liberal Democrats and “desperate Republicans.”

That’s a formula for another disastrous defeat for Gingrich that could mean the end of his presidential run.

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Sunday In Florida

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mike Huckabee, who rushed to John McCain’s defense in the flap over Mitt Romney’s position on an Iraq withdrawal date and bashed Romney this morning, is in a head-to-head battle now with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the VP slot. A quick look at the Florida papers this morning shows that aside from the “Obama Clubs Hillary” stories, it is the Crist endorsement news that grabs the big headlines. The Miami Herald goes with that headline as well, and comments that by raising the Iraq timetable issue McCain “succeeded in putting his opponent on the defensive.” The St. Petersburg Times added its endorsement.

I would agree for reasons stated here that the Crist endorsement is very meaningful, even though many voters have already cast ballots. Whether warranted or not, the McCain team thinks their man has the momentum. Unfortunately for the poll-obsessed among us, polls at this stage may not shed much light on where the race is heading. As we saw with the weekend debate before New Hampshire’s primary and the Hillary big cry, the impact of significant news happenings a day or two before election day generally don’t show up in final polling.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, the Boston Globe offers up this piece on the realities of the turnaround efforts of Mitt Romney’s multi-billion-dollar firm Bain Capital, which unsurprisingly focused on profits and efficiency, not jobs. The story includes this John Edwards-esque comment from a Romney spokesman: “Governor Romney is not critical of companies that have to reduce their workforce in order to remain competitive. He is critical of Washington politicians who throw up their hands in despair and say there’s nothing we can do about it . . . Governor Romney can’t promise that he will bring back lost jobs, but he can guarantee that he will fight for every job.” Because “fighting” is what really matters, I suppose.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mike Huckabee, who rushed to John McCain’s defense in the flap over Mitt Romney’s position on an Iraq withdrawal date and bashed Romney this morning, is in a head-to-head battle now with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the VP slot. A quick look at the Florida papers this morning shows that aside from the “Obama Clubs Hillary” stories, it is the Crist endorsement news that grabs the big headlines. The Miami Herald goes with that headline as well, and comments that by raising the Iraq timetable issue McCain “succeeded in putting his opponent on the defensive.” The St. Petersburg Times added its endorsement.

I would agree for reasons stated here that the Crist endorsement is very meaningful, even though many voters have already cast ballots. Whether warranted or not, the McCain team thinks their man has the momentum. Unfortunately for the poll-obsessed among us, polls at this stage may not shed much light on where the race is heading. As we saw with the weekend debate before New Hampshire’s primary and the Hillary big cry, the impact of significant news happenings a day or two before election day generally don’t show up in final polling.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, the Boston Globe offers up this piece on the realities of the turnaround efforts of Mitt Romney’s multi-billion-dollar firm Bain Capital, which unsurprisingly focused on profits and efficiency, not jobs. The story includes this John Edwards-esque comment from a Romney spokesman: “Governor Romney is not critical of companies that have to reduce their workforce in order to remain competitive. He is critical of Washington politicians who throw up their hands in despair and say there’s nothing we can do about it . . . Governor Romney can’t promise that he will bring back lost jobs, but he can guarantee that he will fight for every job.” Because “fighting” is what really matters, I suppose.

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“Mitt Romney…Helped Save My Daughter”

At first blush, this seems like a genuinely great campaign ad — the story of how Mitt Romney basically closed down his business, Bain Capital, in 1996 when the daughter of one of his partners went missing in New York City and Romney sent dozens and finally hundreds of employees to New York to engage in a massive search through the streets for her. It was indeed a selfless and noble thing to do. However, the ad implies Melissa Gay had been kidnapped or something equally sinister, and that is not what happened. As a quick search of the New York Times and Boston Globe archives reveals, she went missing after she traveled to New York from Ridgefield, Conn., on her own, took Ecstasy at a concert on Randalls Island, ended up at a party under the Whitestone Bridge in The Bronx, met a boy there who took her to his house in New Jersey, and stayed with him for a few days, too embarrassed (I would wager) to call her parents and have them come get her. No charges were filed against the boy, which suggests her presence in his house was consensual. I’m sure it was a nightmarish time for her parents, and it was unquestionably was a noble thing Romney did to step in and direct the resources of his firm, including its employees, to search for her. But a) she wasn’t in need of “saving” in the way the ad’s narrative implies and b) there’s no evidence in the open record that the Bain Capital search, wonderfully well-intentioned, was responsible for Melissa’s safe return to her family. UPDATE: There is some contention in the comments below that indeed Melissa Gay was in danger from an Ecstasy overdose. That does not comport with the contemporaneous record. According to the Boston Herald on the day after she was found, “The hunt went on until a family in Montville, N.J., heard of it and called police later to say Missy was with them and fine.”  An overdosing teenager is not “fine,” but Melissa evidently was, and probably knew her parents’ home phone number. And, for the record, I am not, nor have I ever been, an adviser to the Giuliani campaign, paid or unpaid.

At first blush, this seems like a genuinely great campaign ad — the story of how Mitt Romney basically closed down his business, Bain Capital, in 1996 when the daughter of one of his partners went missing in New York City and Romney sent dozens and finally hundreds of employees to New York to engage in a massive search through the streets for her. It was indeed a selfless and noble thing to do. However, the ad implies Melissa Gay had been kidnapped or something equally sinister, and that is not what happened. As a quick search of the New York Times and Boston Globe archives reveals, she went missing after she traveled to New York from Ridgefield, Conn., on her own, took Ecstasy at a concert on Randalls Island, ended up at a party under the Whitestone Bridge in The Bronx, met a boy there who took her to his house in New Jersey, and stayed with him for a few days, too embarrassed (I would wager) to call her parents and have them come get her. No charges were filed against the boy, which suggests her presence in his house was consensual. I’m sure it was a nightmarish time for her parents, and it was unquestionably was a noble thing Romney did to step in and direct the resources of his firm, including its employees, to search for her. But a) she wasn’t in need of “saving” in the way the ad’s narrative implies and b) there’s no evidence in the open record that the Bain Capital search, wonderfully well-intentioned, was responsible for Melissa’s safe return to her family. UPDATE: There is some contention in the comments below that indeed Melissa Gay was in danger from an Ecstasy overdose. That does not comport with the contemporaneous record. According to the Boston Herald on the day after she was found, “The hunt went on until a family in Montville, N.J., heard of it and called police later to say Missy was with them and fine.”  An overdosing teenager is not “fine,” but Melissa evidently was, and probably knew her parents’ home phone number. And, for the record, I am not, nor have I ever been, an adviser to the Giuliani campaign, paid or unpaid.

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No Way, Huawei

On Friday, 3Com announced that it had agreed to be acquired. Bain Capital, the Boston-based private-equity firm, will take about 80 percent of the struggling computer networking pioneer. China’s Huawei Technologies is slated to purchase the remaining portion.

The deal faces a national security review in Washington by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. CIFUS should turn down the proposed transaction on general principles. Huawei, which Newsweek once described as “a little too obsessed with acquiring advanced technology,” should not be allowed to make any sizable acquisition of sensitive American assets.

3Com’s technology, if shared with Huawei, would help China eavesdrop on U.S. domestic conversations. Moreover, the American company’s encryption technology would make China’s networks less vulnerable to foreign surveillance. Just last year 3Com ended its joint venture with Huawei. Now the Chinese company wants the 3Com technology that it does not already possess.

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On Friday, 3Com announced that it had agreed to be acquired. Bain Capital, the Boston-based private-equity firm, will take about 80 percent of the struggling computer networking pioneer. China’s Huawei Technologies is slated to purchase the remaining portion.

The deal faces a national security review in Washington by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. CIFUS should turn down the proposed transaction on general principles. Huawei, which Newsweek once described as “a little too obsessed with acquiring advanced technology,” should not be allowed to make any sizable acquisition of sensitive American assets.

3Com’s technology, if shared with Huawei, would help China eavesdrop on U.S. domestic conversations. Moreover, the American company’s encryption technology would make China’s networks less vulnerable to foreign surveillance. Just last year 3Com ended its joint venture with Huawei. Now the Chinese company wants the 3Com technology that it does not already possess.

What’s wrong with Huawei? The official story says that Ren Zhengfei formed the company in 1988. It’s more likely that Ren, a former Chinese military engineer, is acting as a front for the People’s Liberation Army. It’s impossible to ascertain the truth, but this we know: in less than two decades Huawei has grown from scratch to an enterprise with 62,000 employees in 41 countries and sales of over $8.7 billion. And how did it do that? Huawei has benefited from substantial help from the Chinese government, especially R&D funding, tax incentives, and export assistance. The company says it is not owned or controlled by the Chinese military, but its denials have failed to convince outsiders. Huawei is one of the least transparent businesses in China.

In 2005, Britain blocked Huawei from taking over Marconi. Until we know much more about this Chinese company, we should stop it from purchasing any portion of 3Com. We did not allow the Soviet Union to buy critical American assets. The same principle should apply now.

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