Mitt Romney's Big Problem Isn't Trump or Obama, It's Mitt Romney

By Wapshott, Nicholas | New Statesman (1996), June 11, 2012 | Go to article overview

Mitt Romney's Big Problem Isn't Trump or Obama, It's Mitt Romney


Wapshott, Nicholas, New Statesman (1996)


It is not easy to feel sorry for Mitt Romney. Like David Cameron and George Osborne, he looks too comfortably well off, his skin too shiny and tanned, his hair too expensively cut, his jeans too well pressed. He estimates his personal wealth at somewhere between $210m and $250m. When you don't know how rich you are to the nearest $4om, it must be hard to relate to people who know exactly how little there is in their pay packets.

The presidential race has entered the long, sleepy summer season in which nothing much gets done, which will end on Labor Day, 3 September. The nitty-gritty of the campaigns, such as Romney picking a running mate, will only be dealt with when everyone has shaken the sand out of their loafers.

Until then, the two sides are concentrating on setting the stage with a big theme, saving the full barrage of smaller skirmishes for the autumn. For Romney, that means priming voters to ask themselves whether they are better off than they were four years ago. For Obama, it means painting Romney as a fraud when it comes to claiming the ability to create jobs.

Obama's people have already begun to sow seeds of doubt about Romney's boast that because he made himself a fortune at the asset-strippers Bain Capital he understands how the US economy works. They have paraded people thrown out of work by Bain and companies that went bust after being burdened with too much debt by Bain.

Friendly fire

Obama has benefited from ammunition kindly provided by Romney's Republican rivals.

"The Bain model is to go in at a very low price, borrow an immense amount of money, pay Bain an immense amount of money and leave," said Newt Gingrich in January. "I think that's exploitation." "There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business," said Rick Perry. "I happen to think that that is indefensible."

But painting Romney as Gordon Gekko has proved costly to Obama, who relies for funds on friendly Wall Street types who take exception to being painted as unfeeling, self-serving crooks. Popular Democrats like Bill Clinton, Steve Rattner, the architect of the successful motor industry bailout, the former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford, Jr; and Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, broke ranks, saying they couldn't blanket condemn venture capitalists, who serve a purpose by refreshing companies in decline.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Romney, too, has problems with his supporters. It was bad enough that Donald Trump, with his absurd Arthur Scargill combover, hijacked his endorsement by maintaining the lie that Obama wasn't born in the US. The persistence of the "birther" movement is undermining the claim that Romney leads a level-headed party. He faces similar embarrassment by depending on billionaire backers such as the Koch brothers, oil magnates who fund dodgy science about climate change. Mixing with deluded people can frighten off rational independent voters.

Because the super-PACs that the Kochs and others fund may not legally confer with Romney's official campaign, they may do more harm than good. …

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