President Obama’s political attack on Mitt Romney’s tenure at private equity firm Bain Capital got lots of criticism from Democratic politicians a couple of months ago—but it appears to be working.
The president has been making headway in polls in key swing states, and political ads attacking the former Massachusetts governor’s former firm may be a big reason for it.
Last week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found twice as many voters in swing states were negative as were positive on the Republican presidential candidate’s stewardship of Bain.
Bain has come into the spotlight again following two recent pieces in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
The Times found that of the more than 40 companies in which Bain held a majority stake during Romney’s time at the firm, at least seven filed for bankruptcy at some point, but while “hundreds of employees lost their jobs,… Bain and its executives still found a way to make money.” The Times wrote:
A big reason for that was that Bain-owned firms often took on big debt to pay fat dividends to its investors and Bain partners, a technique pioneered by Romney, as I wrote here recently.
Now The Washington Post reported Bain was a “pioneer” of another kind–investing in companies that helped outsource jobs beyond the US:
Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.
During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain…,it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components…
The Romney campaign tried to get the Post to retract the story, but to no avail. For the president, this was manna from heaven. His campaign launched a series of attack ads in swing states dubbing Romney a potential “outsourcer in chief.”
And the president’s chief surrogate, Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning in the swing state of Iowa, called Romney “a job creator — in Singapore. And China. And India.”
The president himself said:
My plan will stop giving tax breaks to businesses that ship jobs and factories overseas…and start rewarding companies that create jobs and manufacturing right here in the United States of America.’
Now, Mr. Romney disagrees with this…The companies his firm owned were ‘pioneers’ in the outsourcing of American jobs to places like China and India. Pioneers!
The nonpartisan FactCheck.org said “some of the claims in the ads are untrue, and others are thinly supported.”
No matter. The ads pack an emotional punch and they help solidify perceptions in voters’ minds that Romney may fix the economy for other people, not them. Yes, they appeal to voters’ fears rather than their hopes, but the Bain issue is drawing blood, so don’t expect David Axelrod and the president’s tough political operatives in Chicago to stop using it any time soon.