Desperate to halt Mitt Romney's momentum, Newt Gingrich has "gone full Occupy Wall Street" on the GOP frontrunner, accusing Romney of "looting" companies and tossing workers out the door during his years at venture capital firm Bain Capital, which Romney co-founded and led in the 1980s and '90s. Rick Perry has also joined the charge, calling companies like Bain "vultures." Romney is pushing back, saying he created jobs — both as a financier, and later, as governor of Massachusetts. Conservative pro-business groups, who tend to celebrate companies like Bain, called Newt's attacks "disgusting" and, essentially, "un-Republican." In an era of high unemployment and anti-Wall Street anger, will these assaults take Romney down a notch, or will this strategy backfire on Mitt's rivals?
This makes Romney's rivals look pathetic: "Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman seem to be engaged in a perverse contest," says National Review in an editorial, to see who can "say the most asinine thing about Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital." It's foolish to "abominate Romney" for investing in struggling corporations and saving jobs simply because he made a pot of money in the process. "Private-sector expertise and experience is an invaluable thing in a chief executive, and Romney has nothing to regret on that front." These attacks aren't the first sign that his rivals aren't fit to be nominated, but it may be the "most disturbing" yet.
"Romney's profitable past"
Nonetheless, these attacks could hurt Romney: It is shocking to see the Tea Party-infused GOP "attacking laissez faire capitalism," says David Weigel at Slate, but "the Newt attack could work." The "post-2008 collapse of trust in authority" applies to Wall Street as well as government, and voters are suddenly frowning on Mitt's Bain years. A pro-Newt super PAC's new documentary, which "portrays Romney as a heartless, Brylcreemed supervillain who 'contribut[ed] to the greatest American job loss since World War II," could damage Mitt with GOP primary voters.
"New GOP slogan: Down with greed!"
Both Romney and Newt are guilty of "silliness": "Bain Capital shouldn't be demonized," and Gingrich, Perry, and Huntsman deserve the flak they are getting from conservatives for their anti-Bain "silliness," says William Kristol in The Weekly Standard. But Mitt Romney "is also silly" for claiming throughout his campaign that his work at Bain somehow "almost uniquely qualifies him to be president." A venture capitalist is no more — nor less — qualified for public office than a teacher, or a soldier, or a congressman.
"From Bain to Main"
Obama is the real winner here: Romney's GOP critics are "undermining his general election argument," says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. These "Republicans are mainstreaming and giving bipartisan legitimacy to one of the chief arguments Obama and Dems will use against Romney" — namely, "that his Bain years are emblematic of... predatory capitalism." Romney says the Dems' argument is akin to attacking "capitalism itself," and puts "free enterprise on trial." But now Republicans are giving their stamp of approval to the Dems' line of attack. This "will be as central to the general election narrative as the war over John Kerry's Vietnam service was in 2004."
"Romney's GOP critics undermining his general election argument"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
- 9 Harvard dropouts who became fabulously successful
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
- Why baseball is America's most dangerous spectator sport
- Why the West should accept ISIS as a sovereign nation
Subscribe to the Week