Whatever doubts may be lingering about the willingness of establishment Republicans to coalesce behind Mitt Romney should be quashed by the overt pressures being exerted by prominent GOPers on Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry to tone down their attacks on Romney’s record at Bain Capital. Criticizing an opponent’s record is, of course, fair game in a primary campaign. As Romney said to Gingrich, who was whining about being the target of negative ads just recently, presidential politics is not for bean counters.
And yet establishment talking heads (many from the Bush camp, like Ari Fleischer and Mary Matlin) are out there complaining on CNN and MSNBC that Newt and Perry are doing Obama’s dirty work. Obama, the GOP narrative goes, is a “radical” and a “socialist”; Republicans, on the other hand, have to defend capitalism, even the Romney variety.
Gingrich is far from being the most sincere candidate in the race. We can only assume he is getting desperate as the momentum of a few weeks ago shifts the other way. He is also smarting from Romney’s Super Pac ads in Iowa, which quite literally annihilated Gingrich’s chances in the caucuses. Perry, meanwhile, has simply been a bust in this campaign.
Still, Romney has set himself up for the attack—and it has little to do with capitalism. It has everything to do with Romney’s major shortfall: his inability to define himself as an authentic conservative, borne of conservative values and principles. His unprecedented victories in the first two contests, while impressive, have done little to convey any authenticity. His speech after Iowa was horrific and uninspiring; the one in New Hampshire was too well crafted to silence his critics. And just try to find a common connection between the two speeches!
In an effort to minimize the impact of encouraging job numbers for Obama, Romney is trying to portray himself as a job creator through his work at a private equity firm called Bain Capital. By definition, Bain Capital is not in the business of creating jobs. Its goal is to provide healthy returns for its investors. There is nothing anti-capitalistic in doing this. The problem with Mitt is that he is claiming to create jobs and has generally done the opposite when at Bain. Perhaps he could boast about his job creation record in Massachussetts—if it weren’t for the fact that, when he was governor, his state was 47th in job creation.
The real argument for a Romney presidency revolves around his managerial experience. He turned Bain into a successful business enterprise, saved the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and implemented Romneycare in Massachusetts. He is not a job creator. He balances books, knows how to make money, and has had a significant, singular achievement in bringing mandate-led universal healthcare to his state. Romney has also been a perpetual candidate for public office since 1994. He has not held a job since 2006, which says a lot about his wealth. That too is fine and he should not be criticized for this. And when he decides to release his tax records (and he should do so as soon as possible, according to Sarah Palin), we will find out how successful he is in earning money without actually holding a job.
Romney has changed his stance on many values-based issues and he has been called to account for it. Why should his claims about being a job creator not be held to the same standard? Establishment GOPers notwithstanding, this is fair game for Romney’s opponents. It may actually help him as voters will get to know what a president Romney would be like.