Mitt Romney’s unsolvable Bain problem
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney continues to struggle to get out from under questions regarding just when he departed from his job at Bain Capital. And there’s reason to believe that he won’t be able to solve his Bain problem anytime soon.
Politics 101 says that when your campaign is bleeding — and Romney’s camp is bleeding right now — the best way to stop it is to get as many facts out as quickly as possible and then insist that it’s a dead issue and refuse to answer questions on it moving forward.
That won’t likely work for Romney because of the seeming contradictions about when he left the company — and the exotic nature of his financial life.
While most independent fact checkers agree that Romney had no involvement in Bain’s day-to-day operations after 1999, the fact that he was listed on Securities and Exchange Commission documents as chairman and president of Bain creates a fuzziness that allows President Obama’s campaign to continue to hammer away on the issue. (Make sure to read Fact Checker Glenn Kessler’s piece laying out the facts such as they are.)
That fuzziness was furthered over the weekend by Romney campaign senior adviser Ed Gillespie who said that the former Massachusetts governor had “retroactively” retired in 1999.
That phrasing might work in the business world but it points to the political problem Romney has with Bain. Regular people who aren’t CEOs don’t retroactively retire after three years in which they are listed as the head — whether titular or not — of a major company.
Therefore, trying to explain that while he remained — at least on paper or in name — the chairman and president of Bain to people is no easy task.
(It’s no accident that Obama’s team is working to build questions about Bain into a broader critique of Romney’s alleged lack of transparency on things like bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.)
Because of the the complex nature of Romney’s finances — and his on again, off again relationship with Bain — there is no simple way for him to put it in his rearview mirror.
Romney’s campaign seems to be trying a dual-tracking strategy to change the subject: stoking talk about the possibility of an early VP pick — perhaps as early as this week — and trying to re-take the offensive by hitting Obama for alleged political cronyism.
Neither are a bad approach. But with the Obama campaign showing no signs of letting up on the Bain issue neither will likely work. Romney is doing all he can do to make this Bain discussion go away but the complexity at the heart of his retirement ensures that it’s not a problem he can readily solve. His best bet now is to hope that it’s washed away in a few news cycles by the next hot storyline.