Wall Street Ties Won’t Sink Romney

December 21st, 2011 at 12:38 am | 15 Comments |

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Some on the right are concerned that Obama would slam Romney as a denizen of Wall Street and that Romney’s wealth would prove a hindrance in the general election. While some worries about Romney’s business background are more the product of sympathy for other candidates than anything else, there is an element of real anxiety to them, and they are not completely baseless.

However, there are numerous reasons not to overestimate the potential effectiveness of White House attacks on Romney over Wall Street connections.

Perhaps foremost among them is the White House’s own very deep connections to Wall Street. Cabinet figures like Tim Geithner and White House allies like Jon Corzine are the embodiment of Wall Street insiders—they make Mitt Romney look like a secretary at the Merrill Lynch branch office in Fargo, North Dakota. Many of Obama’s top advisors come from the world of Wall Street. Any attacks on Romney’s Street connections immediately open Obama up to the countercharge of hypocrisy: if Wall Street is so bad, why do you choose to people your administration with Streeters and have Wall Street tycoons as central fund-raisers for your presidential campaign?

Charges of hypocrisy here could be particularly damaging for Obama. Despite a lackluster (to put it mildly) administration, Obama still has a chance of winning reelection in part because of the personal affection that many Americans still have for him. The glow of Obama as a political figure who can rise above petty partisan squabbles has dimmed, but it has not entirely vanished. If Obama becomes painted as just another hypocritical political opportunist, his reelection prospects suffer a considerable blow.

Moreover, attacks upon Romney’s wealth would make Obama seem more like Walter Mondale than Bill Clinton. Invective-fueled class warfare might be helpful at the margins, but America is still, despite a decade of trials, an optimistic nation. It would seem out of touch indeed for Obama, not exactly a poor man himself, to be complaining about Romney’s wealth when millions of Americans are out of work. The American public would much rather see solutions for the nation’s problems instead of complaints about an individual’s success.

This suggests another limitation for Obama’s potential attacks upon Romney’s corporate history. It’s true that a number of people were laid off due to the actions of Bain Capital (though many others were also hired due to Bain). The media (and maybe some Republican candidates) will be sure to emphasize the lost jobs and displaced individuals. But millions more have lost their jobs in Obama’s economy. The disappointments of the stimulus bill far exceed those of Bain. A comparison of Romney’s employment record in the corporate world and as governor of Massachusetts with Obama’s is not one that would seem to be in the president’s favor at the moment. The president’s only hope for reelection is to focus on the future; looking to the past will only emphasize the shortcomings of the administration. Obama may think that his administration’s accomplishments may possibly exceed those of Lincoln, but most Americans are a little more pessimistic on that point.

Some rightie activists have suggested that Ted Kennedy’s anti-Romney strategy in 1994 offers a devastating blueprint for Obama’s 2012 strategy against Romney. This parallel should also not be overstated. Kennedy did hit Romney hard on his record at Bain, but Barack Obama is no Ted Kennedy, and the United States is not Massachusetts. Kennedy’s 17-point victory over Romney was a decisive one, but 1994 was the only time Kennedy’s reelection margin fell below 20 points. Even with all his Wall Street attacks, Kennedy’s margin of victory was over 10 points less than it was in 1988 or 2000. Obama lacks Kennedy’s electoral cushion; a 10-point swing would end his presidency.

Moreover, in 2002, Shannon O’Brien, the Democratic nominee for Massachusetts governor, tried replicate Kennedy’s tactics, but she was not able to copy his success. A close race with a slim Democratic lead according to most polls ended in a 5-point victory for Romney. It would seem likely that such attacks will be even less effective now.

There are obviously topics in Romney’s business background that should be investigated more. But Romney also has a number of years of government and public service upon which to run. Obama may hope that class warfare can distract from the nation’s poor economic picture, but there is no reason why Republicans should allow that triumph of rhetoric over reality.

Originally Posted at A Certain Enthusiasm

Recent Posts by Fred Bauer

15 Comments so far ↓

  • llbroo49

    Don’t worry Obama won’t have to tie Romney to Wall Street. Romney will tie himself to Wall Street. How else will he get credit for being a job creator?

    So you don’t have to concern yourself with that line of attack anymore than you have to worry about Obama attacking Romney for Mormonisim.

  • valkayec

    It’s early morning here on the West Coast. Just 5 a.m. so I may be a bit scattered in my writing. Nonetheless, there are a number of misconceptions in this blog post.

    First of all, Obama does not have to tie Romney to Wall St. Romney’s already done that himself, not only with his career at Bain but with his continuing to receive profits from the company as well as his major funding raising has been down on Wall St. At leat from my perspective, Romney is already tied to Wall St, hand and mind, in the voters’ minds far more than Obama is. Remember Obama has a major small donor list that can be trotted out on stage which Romney does not have. His money is all corporate and financial which in this election and this economy doesn’t speak well to his association or empathy to the working class, especially against the backdrop of the 99%-ers popular protests.

    Second, Romney has no narrative or story to which voters can relate. He’s not one of us out here in the hinterland, struggling to survive. Judging solely by appearance, he is outside our realm of experience, having never had to figure out how to pay the mortgage or rent or having to decide whether to buy groceries or pay medical bills. Now, compare his story with Obama’s still powerful narrative from ’08: a poor black kid growing up sometimes on welfare, living at best an ordinary middle class life, yet, raising himself up, through his own ambition, to run for President. It was a message that said still to every kid from every neighborhood, if you work hard and apply yourself you too can be President of the US. The reverse of that story is Romney: born rich and privileged, never really dealt with any hardship, never went without, never worked menial jobs to pay his way. How can he understand in his gut what average people are going through financially, emotionally, and physically?

    Third, while the original stimulus bill was not as effective as it could have been because of design flaws – which many of us understand were a result of courting GOP votes – still stopped the majority of bleeding and started the upward movement of GDP and employment.

    Fourth, most of the bleeding of jobs occurred before and just after Obama took office, before he put any legislation into action. The American people, in general, know that fact regardless of the GOP spin attempting to blame him for the millions of job losses that were occurring at the time of the ’08 election. Furthermore, while job creation has been weak as a result of the lack of demand while deleveraging continues, most of the job numbers reflect continued growth in the private sector being offset by massive job losses in the public sector. If anything the continued slow growth can be laid at the feet of the GOP in Congress. GDP had been steadily rising until just after the ’10 election when it dropped and has only risen again in the last couple of months. A very good argument can be made that the GOP Congressional members have actually harmed the economy by causing greater uncertainty which is why the GOP should not be allowed the Presidency, let alone control of Congress.

    • Baron Siegfried

      That’s a feature, not a bug. Agreed – if I were Romney, I wouldn’t take any 3 hour tours, as he’s classic sitcom material. I hope he doesn’t call his wife ‘Lovey’ . . . If the hardest thing you’ve ever done physically in your life is missionary work in France while taking a draft deferment, well, nice work if you can get it.

      I would think a great political ad would be the famous ‘Greed is Good!’ speech by Gordon Gekko interleaved with suitably provocative shots of Romney juxtaposed with his victims . . .

  • LaLupa

    Just look at the photo. Does anyone think that is a winning image?!

  • TJ Parker

    No, his Mormonism will sink him.

    How many of those Christian conservatives know that Joseph Smith was shot and killed when trying to escape from jail, where he was put for trying to overthrow the U.S. government?

    As I’ve said before, most Evangelicals won’t vote for a Mormon. 60 Minutes could do a simple and bloodless but entirely factual essay on the origins of LDS and remaining support would completely collapse.

  • JohnMcC

    One of the ‘issues’ cited by Mr Bauer is the supposed connection between Tim Geitner and the Obama administration. Really?! Does our Original Poster know that Mr Geitner was made Chairman of the NY Fed by the Repubs in 2003. He declined the offer of becoming CEO of Chase in ’07. He partnered with Repub-appointees Paulson and Bernanke in getting the TARP passed in ’08. And Mr Bauer and the editors of this Forum think he will be made into a ‘link’ between the present administration and the Masters of the Universe.

    Why do we bother to ask what is wrong with the Repub Party? Even their most hopeful ‘green shoots’ are apparently irretrievably stupid.

  • Volosopher

    The headline of this piece ought to read “I Really Really REALLY Hope Wall Street Ties Won’t Sink Romney”. Whether the Obama Administration is filled with Wall Street lackeys or not, the fact of the matter is that Romney himself is a Wall Street guy and Obama is not. Personally, I think this makes a big difference in how voters perceive the two; certainly, Mike Huckabee is not the only one who thinks “Mitt Romney looks like the guy who fires you.”

  • rbottoms

    We don’t give a sh*t about him being wealthy, Steve Jobs was wealthy and we loved him.

    What will sink him is stripping companies of assets and firing workers by the thousands to get that wealth.

  • Graychin

    “Millions more have lost their jobs in Obama’s economy.”

    Blaming the Bush Recession on Obama is a talking point that isn’t selling. Voters who occasionally get outside the Republican Bubble know better. Since this is the best you’ve got, I’d say you’re in deep doo-doo.

  • Skeezix

    Bauer contends that because Romney did well against Kennedy, then it stands to reason that his Wall Street-Bain work wasn’t a factor. Come again?

    What if Romney would have won if it weren’t’ for his work at Bain? Maybe the folks in Massachusetts were ready to elect Romney, who spun himself as a moderate back then? What if Romney would have come a lot closer — maybe even won — if it wasn’t for Bain?

  • aquaman

    I live in MA and I remember the 1994 race vividly. Disclosure: while a registered voter, I’m not affiliated with any party, but my politics align more with the Dems.

    That said, in 1994, I just *could not* vote for Kennedy. The ’94 election was the first time Teddy was being judged the wake of the William Kennedy Smith trial. I’ve never known Kennedy-fatigue to be greater than it was in 1994. That, combined with the general sense that the GOP was mounting a wave election, could have been Teddy’s demise. However, I remember, the thing that began galvanizing his supporters was the notion that Romney was a corporate raider.

    The Bain ads killed Romney in ’94. I remember feeling that Romney just melted away once the Bain ads started running. And my sense is that Kennedy, recognizing Romney’s future, held back. Obama won’t be so kind. Mitt is toast.

  • Kane

    Republican­s never cease to amaze me. In 2008, they nominate the most ardent and vocal supporter of an unpopular war. Now, with the abuses of Wall Street fresh on the minds of most Americans and middle class shrinking, they are about to nominate a candidate who has lived a life of wealth and privilege and who is the most ardent defender of the richest one percent.

    Romney’s retirement package from Bain Captial continues to provide him with millions of dollars each year. Thus, every business over the course of more than a decade that Bain has dismantled­, every layoff, every firing, every job outsourced overseas, Romney has profited from.

    Go ahead, explain that to the voters.

  • Kane

    Team Romney appears to have adopted a familiar theme similar to the one often offered by Bush and McCain and others for the defense of their Iraq policies. Instead of wrapping himself in the American flag and accusing critics of the war of being unpatrioti­c dividers, Romney is wrapping himself in the flag of “Free Enterprise­” and arguing that any criticism of his actions at Bain of destroying American jobs and outsourcin­g jobs abroad is an attack on free enterprise itself.

    One problem with this argument. Most voters can tell the difference between the captains of industry and the vultures who prey upon capitalism for their selfish gains.