Mitt Romney has spent the past couple of weeks arguing that the presidential campaign has drifted too far from the “issues that matter.” Two weeks ago, this meant downplaying the significance of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, and last week, it was marriage equality and his “youthful indiscretions” that were characterized as distractions.
The Republican said he wanted the focus to be on jobs and the economy. As of this morning, the “be careful what you wish for” adage comes to mind.
The Obama campaign unveiled this two-minute long video this morning, along with the launch of a new website: RomneyEconomics.com. It marks a new offensive, in which President Obama’s re-election team is highlighting Romney’s record of orchestrating mass layoffs and the significance of the underlying “business philosophy” the Republican displayed at his private-equity firm, Bain Capital.
This is not just a web video – the above ad is a trimmed-down version of a six-minute video, and it’s slated to air in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Colorado.
If the message seems familiar, it’s because campaign watchers heard plenty about this during the Republican primaries, when Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and others targeted Romney for his callous, anti-worker “vulture” capitalism. Indeed, this has been a lingering issue for Romney for quite a while – in 2004, then-rival Mike Huckabee said, “I want to be a president who reminds you of the guy you work with, not the guy who laid you off.”
We know, of course, that these criticisms did not derail Romney’s primary campaign, but the message is more likely to resonate with a broader, national audience than with GOP voters exclusively.
It also underscores one of the great ironies of the 2012 campaign: voters consider job creation the nation’s #1 issue, and arguably Mitt Romney’s weakest issue and biggest vulnerability is … job creation.
When we think about Romney’s record on jobs, the natural focus is on his tenure as governor, when he had a chance to put his job-creation know-how to good use. Regrettably, his efforts didn’t work in Massachusetts, and his state’s record on job creation was “one of the worst in the country,” ranking 47th out of 50 states in job growth. It’s one of the reasons Romney left office after one term deeply unpopular with his constituents.
But with Romney generally content to pretend his one term in office simply never occurred, and focusing almost exclusively on his private-sector background, his habit of making millions from companies by laying off their workers is politically problematic, to put it mildly.
What’s more, Democrats have some partisan cover on this – while the Romney campaign will almost certainly push back against this offensive by insisting that Obama’s criticisms are some kind of “attack on capitalism,” the fact remains that the president’s new tack isn’t much different than what Gingrich and Perry were saying a few months back.
Politico said the push casts Romney as “a greedy, job-killing corporate titan with little concern for the working class.” That’s true, but the president’s campaign can back up that characterization with ample evidence, all of which makes the Republican look pretty bad.
Romney has spent the last year urging voters to focus on his business record. Team Obama appears eager to oblige.