The Mitt Romney campaign, and his supporters in the blogosphere, are hurling thunderbolts at Newt Gingrich and his backers this morning for attacking Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. They are claiming that this line is anti-capitalist, that good Republicans everywhere should condemn this apostasy, and that it risks undermining Republican chances against Obama.
I asked Rick Tyler, the GOP operative who works for the pro-Gingrich Super PAC that is now set to run ads attacking Romney’s Bain years, for his response to the charges. Tyler added a dimension to the argument that has not gotten any real play, one that suggests this line of attack on Romney will only grow louder: Romney is vulnerable to the charge that he profitted from creating jobs overseas.
“Show me where those jobs are?” Tyler said, in a reference to Romney’s frequent claim that he created over 100,000 jobs at Bain. “I would contend they are Mexican jobs and southeast Asian jobs.”
Tyler said Republicans need to know right now whether Romney can successfully deflect attacks on his Bain years, because in a general election, David Axelrod and other Obama advisers will make it far more forcefully than anyone in the GOP primary.
“He’ll make me look like a cakewalk,” Tyler said of Axelrod, adding that Republicans should want to see if Romney is capable of answering the criticism: “If he can’t, we ought to know about it now.”
Tyler also rebuffed the claim that criticizing Romney’s Bain years is somehow anti-capitalist.
“This is not free-enterprise in the sense of Steve Jobs and Apple,” Tyler said. “People think of these [firings] as isolated incidents. But there is a Bain victim in nearly every state of the union. If voters learn about a pattern of predatory corporate muggings, I think they’re going to get angry.”
The broader case against Romney’s years at Bain, and particularly the argument about jobs going overseas (to the degree this can be quantified, if at all) could be very potent in struggling Rust Belt communities, where economically suffering voters may prove particularly skeptical of Romney’s “job creator” argument. Now that we have this case coming from Republicans, too, it could be even more powerful.