Could the Conventional Wisdom Be Wrong? Can Mitt Romney Lose?

Andrew Sullivan has an intriguing post. He has seen the anti-Romney, Bain Capital film that Newt Gingrich’s camp is touting and says it’s devastating — so much so that he thinks Romney could lose:

I just watched the Bain documentary featured below and being broadcast throughout South Carolina by Newt Gingrich’s SuperPac in full. It’s loaded with out-of-context quotes and heavily biased; it focuses on the specific human suffering of the necessary “creative destruction” of capitalism not its general benefits to the economy. It does so through the voices and stories of ordinary Americans. And, as an emotional bludgeon, it’s devastating.

But what makes it so dangerous to Romney, it seems to me, is that the Bain Brahmin didn’t just fire thousands of working class people in restructuring and in closing companies. He made [an] unimaginable fortune doing it. That’s the issue. Other Republicans can speak about the need for free markets in a sluggish economy. But with Romney, we have a singular example of someone who made a quarter of a billion dollars by firing the white middle and working class in droves in ways that do not seem designed to promote growth or efficiency, but merely to enrich Bain.

AND:

Many, many people in, say, South Carolina, have lost jobs. That’s rough enough. But if Romney comes across as the man who made a fortune off this kind of Wall Street maneuvering, he becomes a symbol and a focus for all the roiling populist discontent out there. When he is responsible for someone losing her house, the contrast with his multiple mansions and private beach gets a little de trop. One ad with one victim could be poison.

Of all the jobs he liquidated, moreover, many are in the American heartland. And his response to the people in this documentary – white working class heartland Americans, the GOP base – is that they are merely envious of his achievements. They don’t come off that way in the ad. They come off as bewildered, betrayed and sure that Romney’s goal in all this was merely, solely to make money for himself – the kind of money that most Americans cannot even compute.

I simply cannot imagine a worse narrative for a candidate in this climate; or a politician whose skills are singularly incapable of responding to the story in any persuasive way. This ad is powerful. Romney has already seen a drop in South Carolina. I suspect he’ll drop some more. And I suspect once the potency of this line of attack is absorbed by the GOP establishment, there will be some full, if concealed, panic.

Fair enough. That is a logical case.

However, I still believe Romney is a shoo-in and here is why:
1. He has a huge amount of money behind him, both in his campaign and in “independent” groups. The independent groups are about as totally independent of him as my two cats are totally independent of me. The big difference, is that with Citizens United groups can bury the identities of their contributors in the bankroll sandbox better than my cats can bury the product of several cans of catfood.
2. He continues to get powerful members of the GOP establishment to back him. This includes former UN Ambassador John Bolton. A new report says Jeb Bush will back him: no surprise here, it has been clear now for several months both due to stories about the Bushes and Bush-friend-and-maven Karl Rove that the Bush family prefers Romney, in a year when Jeb doesn’t run.
3. The GOP is increasingly a part of the Talk Show Political Culture and Rush Limbaugh has become the de facto party strategist and also like a God who must bless those let into the true corridors of power. Limbaugh has been sticking up for Romney. Limbaugh wannabe Sean Hannity (the most predictable and tiresome of any talk show host on the right or left) is starting to move to him as well.

Of course there is that little, teeny weeny thing called “the voters.”

Voters shmoters. How much influence can they have?

But all of these strands are coming together and unless Romney loses by a big, fat margin in South Carolina the stage is set for him to win in Florida, where polls show him far ahead.

But all of these analyses mean nothing in the end: conventional wisdom and self-assured analyses are swept under the rug when they turn out wrong. Some analysts, such as Dick Morris, must have to buy rugs in bulk at CostCo.

  

7 Comments

  1. I think what’s missing in all this is that the ads (and long form videos on the web) haven’t quite driven the most salient point home:

    Romney is the guy that fired you.

    He’s not the guy who delivered the news. He’s not your immediate supervisor who had to fire you. No, when you found yourself suddenly out of a job because of “budget cuts” or “downsizing,” and you were so lost that you couldn’t figure out exactly who to be mad at…

    He’s the guy.

    Romney is the archetype for the nameless, faceless CEO who declares “I don’t care how many people you have to cut from the payroll, just get it done.”

    He’s the guy. He’s the executive who decided that his bonus was more important than your salary. That his job was more important than yours. That if cutting you off at the knees meant the stock price would go up a point or two, it was worth it.

    Nobody has yet driven home the point that Romney is that guy.

    I think if the argument is framed correctly, the millions of Americans who lost their jobs over the past 3 or 4 years will see Romney as the guy that fired them.

  2. “his response to the people in this documentary – white working class heartland Americans, the GOP base – is that they are merely envious of his achievements”

    I was actually surprised to hear (I first heard this on the radio) him say such a mind-numbingly stupid (and offensive) thing. It is another in a long line of comments that show how out of contact with conventional reality he is. How can you fix what ails this country most when you can neither wrap your mind around the problem nor empathize with those who are experiencing it?

  3. Seems to me the reply that Romney can and should make is this:

    Some people have the makeup to succeed in virtually any scenario life puts them into. Then name a few: Truman, Ike, Reagan, etc. None of these was groomed to be what they became, they grew into roles because of their makeup. Along the way, and in their ultimate role, they had responsibilities that they fulfilled with a vengeance.

    In my life (says Romney) I’ve had a variety of roles, as a student and as a missionary and as an elected official, as the organizer of the Olympic Games and as head of a major business, and as a husband and father. One gig paid well, the others didn’t. But, in all cases the effort was the same, the dedication was the same, even though the money was a lot less or a lot more depending on the norms of the jobs I was privileged to do.

    In my job at Bain, it was incumbent on me to make evaluations about investing (which taxpayers will appreciate), about keeping companies with lots of jobs and people in business if we could (which those who want to rebuild America will appreciate), and to make those companies and the people who worked in them more secure and ultimately more valuable by virtue of being part of a turnaround. Sometimes it was evident that the way to right a company that was listing and in danger of sinking was to cut costs quickly — including people cost, which is always a sobering and troubling task. Those who look to a President to set priorities and make the tough calls with minimal delay will appreciate THAT aspect of my makeup and my track record.

    Some of the companies we tried to fix we didn’t. We tried, we gave it our all. Sometimes the odds were too great to overcome.

    In business and in government as in life, tough love is an important ingredient. Some prefer waiting, deferring, making people feel good, and hoping that things will work out and get better. If that’s what you are looking for in a President, I would not expect you to vote for me. By November, you will have a very clear picture of who I am, how flexible I can be and how steadfast I can be depending on the issue or the problem to be addressed. You will either come to trust my competence and judgement and decency, proved in the various roles I have had — or you won’t. That’s why I will not get ALL the votes. But I sure hope and expect to have earned a majority of them.

  4. Terry, context is everything. If Romney’s story was the result of healthy capitalist principles and Bain was indeed about “tough love” as you suggest, then fine. As it is, we have a perfect illustration of rampant greed as the dominant motivator, which is taking place at the expense of American workers. This rather sociopathic approach to profit-making is part of a greater GOP trend that has ignored and dismissed (up until recently) the stuggles of middle-class Americans. Romney is in the thick of it.

  5. Companies like Bain aren’t always about restructuring failing companies. Sometimes they are about taking successful companies that could be worth more to investors after being torn apart or saddled with huge debt loads and crippling or destroying them for the sake of that “investment”. This isn’t your parent’s capitalism.

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