As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap: Romney’s Relentlessly Negative Campaign

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (AP)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (AP)

While I’m hardly a religious person, this Old Testament scripture seems to apply just about every day. To use the more modern idiom, what goes around comes around.

Accent the negative. In the Republican primaries, Mitt Romney invested almost no time or money explaining his record or career. Instead, in state after state, he savaged his opponents using his multimillion-dollar superPAC, Restore Our Future. The attacks were launched one after another at whoever was riding high at the moment — by turns Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Each was knocked off by Romney’s superPAC’s relentless hits on TV.

A new game. Now he acts as if he believes he can use that strategy to beat the president. Trouble is, Barack Obama and his team aren’t so weak that they can be dispatched with a week or two of attack ads. They have the financial firepower and the will to fight back. They are demanding release of multiple years of Romney’s tax returns. And the news media isn’t done digging into Bain or financial filings. If you don’t want the press to cover something, the last thing you should say is, it’s a secret.

Taxing deadline. Romney still claims that he’ll release his 2011 tax returns. With extensions, the deadline is Oct. 15, 2012. That’s about three weeks before the election; seems unlikely he’ll do it then.

Eliminate the positive. For Romney, the result of his one-sided campaign is that he has no foundation for his candidacy. Perhaps he didn’t offer a positive message because he feared what an examination of his tenure as governor would reveal. He personally insisted on an individual mandate as part of the health care reform law that he worked with Ted Kennedy to pass the Massachusetts Legislature.

Perhaps he didn’t want to be reminded that, despite his gubernatorial campaign promises to sit down with CEOs — one CEO to another — from around the country (and the world) to sell them on Massachusetts, his job creation rate was 47th, a fact every Democratic officeholder recites almost daily. No major employer came to Massachusetts and we don’t know if he went to CEOs as he had promised. If they had connected, we would’ve heard about it long ago.

Yeah-but. As a result, Romney has nothing to fall back on. In politics, you always want your candidate to have a “Yeah-but” line to repel attacks. “Yeah, he may have cheated on his wife, but he saved jobs at the American flag factory.” Or, “He may have increased spending, but he improved our bond rating.” Through his own doing, the only thing Romney has to fall back on is Bain.

The Huckabee lay off. Four years ago, presidential candidate, the witty Mike Huckabee, said Romney reminds you of the guy who laid you off. That hasn’t changed. Through his work at Bain, Romney still looks like the guy who made a buck by taking your job away. Maybe he closed the business you worked at, maybe he shipped your job overseas, maybe he sold your company to someone who shut it down, maybe the costs he squeezed out included your job.

To make matters worse, in most (but not all) cases, Bain, Romney and his principals, made money — millions — on the buyout, collecting fees and reaping investment profits regardless of what ultimately happened to the company they bought. Moreover, an investigation by the Washington Post called Bain a “pioneer in outsourcing.” This line was picked up by the Obama campaign.

Olympian blunder. When Romney ran the 2000 Olympics, assisted by more than a billion in federal taxpayer dollars, the U.S. team’s torch-relay uniforms were made by a company in Burma. More than 1,000 human rights activists protested that this was helping prop up a repressive military dictatorship which tortured and killed dissenters. Romney’s Olympic committee argued that the uniforms weren’t made in Burma, but in Myanmar. They are the same country; the military uses the name Myanmar.

As ye sew, so shall ye reap. Romney’s silence on the current controversy over China’s being the manufacturer of this summer’s U.S. Olympics ceremonial uniforms may be due to the whole Burma nee Myanmar mess, which happened on Romney’s watch. So much for the Olympics fostering global understanding.

When his Republican primary opponents tried to attack Romney’s record with Bain, their hearts weren’t in it. And they were lousy messengers: Newt Gingrich criticizing private equity is like Kim Kardashian complaining about the high cost of weddings.

Bain is all there is. With four months to go, Romney has barely enough time to build a positive case for his election. The trouble is, the evidence that he needs to make the case is all tied up with Bain Capital. While the problems Bain’s actions have created for Romney haven’t begun to show up in national polls, they will. A deeply cynical electorate isn’t going to cut Romney slack for job-killing tactics at Bain.

This time, you won’t see Democrats — like Newark Mayor Cory Booker or ex-Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell or President Bill Clinton — defend venture capital. Likewise, Romney no longer talks about 10,000 or 100,000 jobs he created at Bain.

President of what? If government doesn’t create jobs, as Romney likes to say, then why should we elect him to run the government in order to create jobs? Shouldn’t he be running for president of, say, Google?

This program aired on July 18, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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Dan Payne Democratic Political Analyst
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.



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