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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 08:15 AM ET, 05/18/2012

The Morning Plum: A key Romney argument crashes and burns

As you know, Mitt Romney has settled on a key counter-argument in the battle over his Bain years: his Bain restructurings, at bottom, are really no different from what Obama did to rescue the auto industry. As I and several others have noted (see Steve Benen), this argument rests on a comical rewriting of the history of the auto-bailout, and an equally absurd series of shifting assertions about his Bain years.

Romney’s latest: he has revived the claim that he created 100,000 jobs while at Bain, after spending months employing a constantly-changing Bain “job creation” figure. He’s now added another twist: not only did he create 100,000 jobs at Bain, but a comparable number were lost under Obama’s restructurings of the auto companies.

Today Post fact checker Glenn Kessler weighs in with a definitive piece that does a total demolition job on Romney’s entire argument. There’s a lot to chew on here, but this is the key conclusion:

Romney appears to be saying it is okay to count jobs created after he left Bain, but it’s not okay to count jobs lost after he left Bain...Not only is his claim of creating 100,000 jobs at Bain untenable, but also his assertion that 100,000 jobs have been lost in the auto industry “on the president’s watch” does not add up.
Yes, there were some painful cuts in the auto industry at the start of Obama’s presidency, largely because tough choices had to be made. One could argue whether those choices were necessary or effective, but the bottom line is clear: No matter how you slice it, jobs overall have grown substantially in the auto industry under Obama. In fact, it is one of the bright spots of today’s economy.

That’s not all. Bain execs made millions off their turnaround deals; Obama didn’t. More broadly, Romney’s use of the auto-bailout in this context only reinforces the philosphical difference the Obama camp is trying to heighten with the attacks on Bain in the first place, and highlights an area where Romney’s economic worldview compelled him to get it entirely wrong.

I think the jury is very much out on whether the Bain attacks will work. Voters appear open to accepting Romney’s preferred narrative about the meaning of his business years, and it’s unclear whether the Obama campaign will succeed in undermining it. But there’s no longer any doubt: Romney’s grand argument about Bain and the auto-bailout — which is absolutely central to his candidacy — is entirely untenable on every level. And more news organizations should say so.

* Romney goes up on the air: The Romney campaign is up with a new general election ad that asks viewers: “What would a Romney presidency be like?”

The ad’s answer to its own question is notable: the only two specific things it promises are approval of Keystone and tax cuts that will “reward job creators.” We’re promised generic “reform” of both the tax code and the health care system, once Obamacare is taken away

Romney’s agenda is mainly to cut taxes for the rich and to get government out of the way so an unfettered private sector can shower everyone with prosperity. It all comes down to whether voters ask themselves this question, and how they answer it: What is Romney actually offering here?

* Romney’s Latino outreach begins: The Romney camp has been criticized for failing to ramp up its outreach to Latinos, who could be pivotal to the outcome, but today it has released a Spanish language version of the above ad.

The spot is in keeping with the GOP hope of making inroads among Latinos — who have been further estranged by Romney’s rightward lurch on immigration — by capitalizing purely on on their dissatisfaction with the economy.

* The meaning of the Wright controversy: Karen Tumulty and Rosalind Helderman have a good overview of yesterday’s Reverend Wright revival: it shows that Romney will likely continue to be knocked off of his economic message by leading Republican Party officials and commentators who are creating controversies unrelated to jobs.

The big idea: Romney “has less power than presidential nominees once did to control the political narrative, largely because congressional Republicans have a greater role than they used to in shaping the party’s identity.” The question will be whether Romney can achieve separation from the party and control of that narrative.

* Why the Obama campaign likes the revival of Wright: Politico on how the misguided plan to use Wright to attack Obama has given his campaign an opportunity to “link Romney to the more hard-edged elements of conservatism.”

* The Romney campaign’s view of the recession: National Journal has an interview with top Romney strategist Stuart Stevens that’s worth a read for a number of reasons. This little nugget is a good place to start:

“I think there is an underappreciation of the economic trauma that is still across the country. That’s why you see those incredible statistics that so many people still think we’re in a recession, even though, technically, the recession ended months ago.”

Months ago? The recession officially ended in June of 2009. So, yeah, the recession ended 35 months ago. Now, the way people feel about this question is another matter, and cause for major political concern for Obama. But come on.

* Obama has edge on electoral map: Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake note a key fact about Obama and the nine core swing states that will decide the presidential election:

He carried every single one of them in 2008 and, even more striking, his average margin of victory across those nine states was 7.6 percent.

This comes on top of the fact that Obama starts with more electoral college votes in his corner than Romney does. In fairness, the swing states can rise and fall as a whole along with the national electorate, so Obama’s advantage is anything but decisive.

* House GOP leaders pressured to go after Holder: An interesting dynamic: The House GOP leadership has sensibly tried to slow the drive to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, because it will smack of a partisan witch hunt, but conservative House freshmen are in no mood for such restraint and are demanding action immediately.

* And the real problem with those Crossroads ads: Alec MacGillis makes an important point about what’s really wrong with the big $25 million ad campaign funded by all that secret money:

It may be secret on the outside, but it’s very much not secret on the inside. That is, the people running Crossroads GPS know not only who is giving to them, but who has declined to give to them, and given how close the ties are between the group and Republicans on Capitol Hill (and Team Romney), that information will make its way around...Potential donors who are approached for cash have to worry that a “no” will wind its way through Washington, where it might cause problems for them down the line.

What else?

By  |  08:15 AM ET, 05/18/2012

 
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