Mitt Romney is trying to turn a weakness -- that people got fired when his Bain Capitol took over companies -- into a strength by saying he rescued household brands everybody knows and loves. But the story of how Romney's business decisions helped regular people eventually -- not just investors, immediately -- isn't so easy to explain. His new ad defending his record at Bain lists several of famous names he helped save -- Staples, Sports Authority, Steel Dynamics. The real story is sometimes more complicated. For example, Steel Dynamics took a lot of government subsidies, the Los Angeles Times reports. Four of Bain's 10 most lucrative investments ended up in bankruptcy court. The ad doesn't mention another Bain investment that's a household name: Domino's Pizza. Could that be because for the past couple years, Domino's has been running ads about how its pizza was awful? When all else fails, Romney says, hey, my opponent fired people too. He told CBNC's Squawk Box, "I'm looking forward to having this debate with President Obama, because, as you know, he became a private equity owner. He took over General Motors and Chrysler. And he shut down factories, shut down dealerships, laid off thousands of people... And the reason is he did that was to save the business. And people in my industry do the same things."
"Mitt Romney is struggling to sell his experience at Bain Capital as something it was never meant to be -- a jobs generator," Politico's Josh Boak writes. Romney, known for his very careful wording, doesn't always oversell in his stump speeches. At a motorcycle dealership in Greer, South Carolina, Thursday, Romney said, "I think any time a job is lost it's a tragedy... And every time that we invested in the business, it was to try and encourage that business to have ongoing life," The Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook and Danny Yadron report. "Encourage a businesses ongoing life" is, obviously, not the same thing as "create as many jobs as possible for people." As one unnamed private equity executive told Politico, while Romney's investments might have had the nice side effect of creating jobs, it's a complicated story to explain. "It doesn’t make the [Romney] statements any less true, but the explanations of how the jobs are created, the where, the when and why are a much more drawn-out conversation," the executive said. "He has a communications challenge."
Here's his attempt at that explanation:
The task of selling Bain isn't made any easier by the fact that in South Carolina, the ads run by Newt Gingrich supporters attacking Romney's business career are sometimes airing back-to-back with ads defending Romney. "Gotta say, the anti-Bain one carries real punch," The Wall Street Journal's Neil King tweets. Politico's Alexander Burns says Romney's ad doesn't have the same emotional impact as interviews with people who lost their jobs.
Stephanie Cutter, President Obama's deputy campaign manager, released a memo showing how the president's campaign will try to take the Bain attacks further, Politico's James Hohmann reports. Cutter says Romney made a very different choice from her boss:
President Obama – who, like Mitt Romney, earned a degree from Harvard and all the opportunities that affords – began his career helping jobless workers in the shadow of a closed-down steel mill. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, made millions closing down steel mills.
In other words: They both went to a fancy school, unlike you, but one chose to help people like you and one chose to hurt people like you. Which is a pretty simple story.