Debunking the theory that Obama’s attacks on Bain are ill-advised and ineffective

Joe Klein DEFTLY DISMISSES the conventional wisdom that President Obama has stumbled coming out of the general-election campaign gate:

The meme of the day in journo-world is that President Obama has stumbled at the outset of the general election campaign. The evidence for this? Well, uh, there isn’t very much, really–except that a few Democrats have criticized his campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital and that Obama’s fundraising is merely humongous, instead of obscenely humongous. The two phenomena are linked, of course: Obama isn’t getting the usual haul from Wall Street because he has outrageously–outrageously!–tried to regulate the bankers who did so much to crash the economy in 2008. The handful of Democrats squawking are people who either (a) get money from private equity firms or (b) have retired and joined Mondo Casino. But there is another side to this story:

I suspect that these Bain attacks are working. Indeed, I suspect the reason that the Obama campaign–and the President himself in an extraordinary moment at the NATO press conference last week–is so adamant about pursuing this tactic is that it (a) lays the predicate for the anti-Romney campaign to come and (b) has been extremely effective with focus groups. And so, what we may be seeing here is the exact opposite of a stumble.



  1. expdoc

    Nice tactic, if it had any truth, it might be interesting. Kim Strassel nails it:


    “Like Mr. Romney, Mr. Obama has presided over bankruptcies, layoffs, lost pensions, run-ups in debt. Yet unlike Mr. Romney, Mr. Obama’s C-suite required billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars an subsidies, as well as mandates, regulations, unions payoffs and moral hazard. Don’t like “vulture” capitalism? Check out the form the president’s had on offer these past three years: “crony “capitalism”

    The case study is the solar panel maker Solyndra, which was part of a green-energy sector that even by 2009 was flailing. the president took one look at the industry’s utter lack of both profits and sellable products, and yelled “that’s my baby!” The stimulus bill shipped tens of billions of dollars to the Energy Department to pour into green companies via grants and loans. It promised 5 million jobs.

    The Energy Department’s nuclear physicists were admittedly a bit flummoxed by the whole P&L thing, but they got their venture-capitalism groove on and in 2009 handed Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee.


    Unable to compete the firm went bankrupt last year. And, oh, the carnage! It was kind of like…GST Steel! Only worse. Solydra laid off 1,100 employees. It provided no severance, not even back pay due for vacation credits.


    “So take your pick. Mr. Obama’s knock on free enterprise is that it is driven by “profit”, and that this experience makes Mr. Romney too heartless to be president. The alternative is an Obama capitalism that is driven by political favoritism, government subsidies, mandates, and billions in tax-payer underwriting-and that really is a pathway to bankruptcies and layoffs. If the president wants to put all 3,545 green stimulus jobs he’s created up against Bain’s record, he should feel free.

    Mr. Romney could make the comparison himself. Ronald Reagan ran against Jimmy Carter’s own industrial policy, an to great success. Viewed in isolation, “vulture” capitalism has some PR downsides. Viewed against the alternative, it’s a flat out winner.”

  2. doc: The subject here is politics. The point of this post is that Obama has not “stumbled” by aiming his fire at Romney’s record with Bain Capital. The point here is that Obama’s attacks are not politically ill-advised or ineffective. There’s evidence that they work.

    The Solyndra issue might be politically useful for the Republicans if they package it correctly. So far, they have failed in that regard. The average Joe has never heard of Solyndra, despite mountains of news coverage and conservative punditry about it. Fox News, Limbaugh, et al, have Solyndraed all over the place, but nobody outside the right-wing noise machine has paid much attention.

    Meanwhile, anyone who thought Obama could easily be dissuaded from harping on the Bain stuff fundamentally misunderstands two things: 1) presidential campaigning in general, and 2) the sophistication of the Obama campaign operation.

    doc, you clearly want to defend Romney on the Bain issue, but all you’ve got is an overly simplistic definition of venture capitalism. Sorry, but that isn’t going to effectively offset the message conveyed in ads about layoffs and plant closings in some of Bain’s deals.

    Romney’s experience at Bain is the be-all and end-all of his credentials — at least, according to him. He’s got nothing to say about his term as governor of Massachusetts. And he doesn’t even want to talk about his stint with the Olympics, during which he was a supplicant for federal goodies. It’s all Bain — and whether Romney created any jobs in that gig.

    So naturally Obama is going to do the Bain stuff on the campaign trail. It’s a legitimate issue — and Romney has made it so.

  3. expdoc

    Politics is for cheats and liars.

    On both sides of the aisle.

    Is it any wonder that people don’t trust government to become more involved in running our lives?

  4. What a weak argument from the Wall Street Urinal. The alternative energy loans were developed under the Bush administration and pushed by the Republicans when Obama took office. But true to the GOP if there’s any failure it’s Obama’s fault and any success goes to Bush aka the predecessor. As for Bain we’ll never hear the full story from Willard just like his taxes and off shore accounts.

  5. expdoc

    You mean like not hearing the true story from the Obama administration on deficits and spending?


    “Nutting claims that Mr. Obama is only responsible for $140 billion worth of spending in his hyperactivist first year in office because . . . the fiscal year technically begins on October 1, 2009. Therefore he says Mr. Obama had no control over the budget, though in February 2009 he did famously manage to pass an $800 billion stimulus that was supposed to be a one-time deal. Mr. Nutting then measures Mr. Obama’s spending growth rate against an inflated 2009 baseline that includes the spending Mr. Obama caused but which he attributes to Mr. Bush.

    This is like an alcoholic claiming that his rate of drinking has slowed because he had only 22 beers today and 25 beers yesterday. To extend the analogy, let’s stipulate that Mr. Bush was no fiscal teetotaler, though that’s even more an indictment of Mr. Obama.

    Mr. Nutting also has some fun toggling among Congressional Budget Office estimates, CBO baselines, White House budget proposals and actual spending to make the Obama record look better. To anyone who really knows the numbers, Mr. Obama’s spending has increased by closer to 5% a year. Comparing apples to apples, CBO says total federal spending was $2.98 trillion in 2008 and has risen every year to reach $3.72 trillion in Mr. Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget.

    The larger conceptual error of the Nutting-Obama-Carney troika is neglecting to compare the budget to the size of the economy. The best perspective on how outlays, tax receipts and deficits change over time is as a share of GDP. Those data reveal historical trends because they account for different inflation rates and include changes over society as a whole like population growth.

    Prior to Mr. Obama, the U.S. had not spent more than 23.5% of GDP—that was in 1983, amid the Reagan defense buildup—since the end of World War II. Yet Mr. Obama has managed to exceed that four years in a row: 25.2% in 2009, 24.1% in 2010 and 2011, and an estimated 24.3% in 2012, up from a range between 18%-21% from 1994-2008.

    Democrats try to explain this away by saying that the economy is lousy, so spending’s share of GDP looks larger than it would be with faster growth. But that is hardly an endorsement of Mr. Obama’s economic policies, and in any case the recession officially ended nearly three years ago, in mid-2009.

    The economy has since been growing but spending has been growing too even from the stimulus-inflated baselines. Every time House Republicans have tried to cut more spending since 2010, Mr. Obama has fought them tooth and claw.

    As for that prairie fire of debt, Mr. Obama can fairly blame $1 trillion or so of the $5 trillion debt increase of the last four years on Mr. Bush. But what about the other $4 trillion? Debt held by the public now stands at 74.2% of the economy, up from 40.5% at the end of 2008—and rising rapidly.”

  6. wilson

    “After all, if Romney’s record in private equity is fair game, then so is Obama’s record in public equity — and that record is not pretty.

    Since taking office, Obama has invested billions of taxpayer dollars in private businesses, including as part of his stimulus spending bill. Many of those investments have turned out to be unmitigated disasters — leaving in their wake bankruptcies, layoffs, criminal investigations and taxpayers on the hook for billions”

    Prove that these failures were pushed and approved by the GOP.


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