Politico reports today that enough stories have now emerged about Romney’s years at Bain to suggest that the scrutiny of that episode in his life is taking on a more serious cast.
There’s that big Times story from this morning reporting that Romney is still profiting from the retirement deal he made with the company — meaning he could still be profiting partly from layoffs. Then there’s this new revelation from WPRI in Rhode Island:
Sensata Technologies, the former sensors-and-controls division of Texas Instruments spun off in 2006 by Mitt Romney’s old company, will freeze its pension plan and scale back 401k contributions next month, WPRI.com has learned.
Romney left Bain seven years before the restructuring deal involving this company, but as Politico notes, the Times story had the effect of bringing the time frame of Romney’s vulnerability on Bain up to the present day.
As I noted last week, both sides are moving aggressively to define the real meaning of Romney’s Bain years, and the view the public takes of those years could figure heavily in 2012. Romney has argued that his Bain years led to some job creation, in addition to layoffs, and that his mixed record is a positive, because it left him with an understanding of what makes private companies tick. But Dems are telling a very different story: Romney’s years at Bain were emblematic of the sort of predatory capitalism that helped cause the crisis and stirred rising anger at Wall Street. As Paul Begala puts it, if Dems emphasize the fact that Romney made enormous profits off layoffs, it will undermine the benign tale Romney is telling, and reinforce a narrative about Romney’s life in which he used all his talents and privilege to enrich himself and his rich friends in ways that shafted middle class Americans.
It’s way too soon to predict with any confidence that Romney’s Bain years will be far more of a liability than a plus for him. If voters conclude that Romney has a reasonably solid grasp of how the private sector works, and they conclude he has the skills to tinker around under the hood of the economy and get it humming again, it could be very dangerous for Dems at a time of high public pessimism about government’s ability to create jobs. But every story that emerges to undermine the buyout-artist-as-job-creator narrative will make him more vulnerable on this front.