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Romney: Can a businessman fix the economy?

The Obama campaign is targeting a new line of attacks on Romney’s business background.

Mitt Romney is running for president “on the strength of his business background,” said Jim Zarroli in NPR.org, but does America really need a “CEO in chief?” That question will loom large in the presidential campaign, especially now that the latest jobs report indicates that the nation’s economic recovery is slowing down. Keenly aware of its vulnerability on the economy, the Obama campaign is targeting a new line of attacks on Romney’s business background. One new ad repeats the now-familiar charge that Bain Capital, Romney’s private-equity firm, made rich investors richer by buying struggling companies, laying off workers, and driving the companies into the ground. Another ad puts a harsh spotlight on Romney’s job-creation record as the governor of Massachusetts. Under the headline “Romney economics: It didn’t work in Massachusetts, and it won’t work now,’’ the ad notes that under the former CEO, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in job creation. Little wonder Romney hates to talk about his time as governor, said Margaret Carlson in Bloomberg.com. As the ultimate job interview gets underway, his four years in Massachusetts are a gaping “hole in Romney’s résumé.”

Obama’s attack on Romney’s governorship is “slanted” and “misleading,’’ said Josh Hicks in WashingtonPost.com. It’s true that Massachusetts lost manufacturing jobs under Romney from 2003 to 2007, but the state’s employment figures had been in free fall for two years before he became governor, and “the average annual rate of loss slowed every year during his tenure, falling from 7 percent when he started to 1.8 percent when he left.” Romney’s record at Bain Capital is also nothing to be ashamed of, said Investor’s Business Daily in an editorial, especially compared with Obama’s failed job-creation strategies. As CEO of Bain, Romney “created more jobs and economic growth than any number of failed stimulus packages” and green-energy boondoggles. If Obama insists on making economic acumen an issue in this campaign, he’s “going to lose and the American people are going to win.”

Based on U.S. history, said Timothy Egan in NYTimes.com, a business background “is more often than not a prelude to a disastrous presidency.’’ Our economy has boomed under presidents with no corporate experience at all, including Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Businessmen Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush, meanwhile, gave us the two worst financial crises in history. When surveying a candidate’s résumé, the general rule seems to be that “the less experience in business, the better the president.” Besides, Romney has already revealed what he’d do to revive the economy if elected, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. He has made a commitment to cut taxes for the rich by 20 percent, and to deeply cut domestic spending for the needy under Rep. Paul Ryan’s radical “Path to Prosperity’’ proposal. If you believe in trickle-down economics, Romney’s your man.

Romney’s plan—and record—may not matter in this election, said Steve Kornacki in Salon.com. If the economic recovery continues to sputter, all Romney has to do is present himself as a “generic, suitably qualified alternative to Obama.” Swing voters may ignore the fine points of the debate over Romney’s Bain years and “the red flags the Obama campaign is raising about Massachusetts,’’ and focus on the fact that Romney has clearly been successful. Given the grouchy mood of the nation, millions of struggling American voters may decide to take a chance, “hit the reset button, and put someone new in the White House.’’

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