* Romney’s claims about jobs continue to crumble: A colleague emails: “Can you remember another time a candidate did as much damage to himself as Romney has done in the last 24 hours? I cannot.”
In that amount of time, two things happened. First, Romney has provided Dems with the perfect fodder for misleading but potentially devastating attacks on his primary vulnerability — his corporate past, which Dems will paint as emblematic of the predatory and unfettered capitalism that has produced untold economic misery for millions. And second, the national political press — and even some leading Republicans and conservatives — have come around to the conclusion that the foundation of the whole case driving his candidacy, his career as an alleged “job creator” at Bain Capital, is based on a series of claims that are entirely untenable.
Here’s the latest, from Glenn Kessler, who weighs in with an epic fact check of Romney’s claim that he created over 100,000 jobs at Bain, and concludes that it’s unsupportable on every level:
Romney certainly has a good story to tell about knowing how to manage a business, spotting opportunities and understanding high finance. But if he is to continue to make claims about job creation, the Romney campaign needs to provide a real accounting of how many jobs were gained or lost through Bain Capital investments while the firm managed these companies — and while Romney was chief executive. Any jobs counted after either of those data points simply do not pass the laugh test.
A big victory for Romney in New Hampshire today could help put all this behind him, and he is still obviously on track to win the nomination and mount a very stiff challenge to Obama. But it’s important to emphasize again that a claim that is absolutely central to the entire rationale for Romney’s presidential campaign — the number of jobs he created at Bain shows he’d be able to turn the economy around — has been entirely discredited.
As we’ve seen, there’s no shaming the Romney campaign into stopping the dissembling and lies, but this particular assertion has now been exposed as so ludicrous that he very well may drop it out of sheer political self-interest. As one of the first to call out this claim, I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how aggressively the press has subsequently taken it apart and with the media’s scrutiny of Romney’s Bain years in general.
* Obama links GOP candidates to unpopular GOP Congress: In a fundraising speech last night, Obama made the connection as explicitly as he could:
Mr. Obama, in an aggressive campaign speech, linked Republicans in Congress and those running in the presidential election, saying both would dismantle Medicare, rollback environmental regulations, lower the minimum wage and crack down on labor union organizing. “Republicans in Congress and these candidates, they think that the best way for America to compete for new jobs and businesses is to follow other countries in a race to the bottom,” Mr. Obama said.
Dems know they have to move aggressively to force the eventual GOP nominee to publicly litigate and defend policies associated with the historically unpopular GOP Congress — such as the push to repeal oversight of Wall Street and to end Medicare as we know it. Because the public has clear perceptions of Congressional GOP overreach and what the Tea Party caucus has wrought with its extremism at the governing table, this strategy will be key to driving home the contrast between the parties and preventing the nominee from moving back to the center in the general election.
* Conservative doubts rising about Romney: A key dynamic to watch: The assault on Romney’s Bain years is causing rising alarm in conservative circles. Jonah Goldberg gives voice to the worries, suggesting we now know that Romney really may not be as electable in a general election against Obama as we keep hearing.
Key footnote: Goldberg suggests that rising doubts about Romney’s electability may be what triggers a brokered convention.
* Why attacks on Bain record might hurt Romney among Republicans: Matt Bai gets at another Romney vulnerability on this front:
The Bain line of attack, more than anything else brandished against Mr. Romney to this point, might bring to the surface an instinctive concern that he’s emotively challenged. I heard some version of this a lot when I visited conservative activists and operatives in South Carolina a few weeks ago — that Mr. Romney seemed plastic and programmed, an impression that could only be exacerbated by the idea that he was laying people off and sleeping just fine.
* Romney acceptable to conservative voters? The conservative elite’s worries about Romney don’t appear to be shared by voters: Gallup finds that he is the GOP candidate seen as acceptable by the highest percentage of conservative voters nationwide.
Also: A new Post poll finds that Romney is the only GOP candidate viewed favorably by a majority of conservatives.
* Romney’s divide and conquer strategy: As Ron Brownstein explains, Romney is running better than any rival among conservatives because the other candidates have splintered the ideological wing of the GOP to Romney’s benefit. Until some of these folks drop out, this dynamic will continue — and it may be too late.
* Romney’s strength is his aura of competence: Relatedly, Michael Gerson makes the case that Romney will be formidable against Obama because of his aura of competence as an economic technocrat. I agree that people are underestimating the appeal that the sense of his basic competence will have in a general election.
* Gingrich keeps up the attacks on Romney and Bain: Newt takes his argument to another level, claiming that Romney’s conduct at Bain actually “undermined capitalism .”
Key takeaway: The fact that leading Republicans have now supported this line of attack will insulate Dems employing it in the general election from the charge that they are putting “free enterprise on trial,” as Romney likes to put it.
* The fiction behind Super PACs: A good Post editorial gets at the reason Super PACs are a threat to our democracy and an invitation to corruption: There’s no meaningful separation between a candidate’s campaign and organizations raising unlimited contributions that are run by longtime top advisers to that same candidate.
* And meet the new White House chief of staff: Glenn Greenwald takes a look at Jacob Lew’s background at Citigroup, and what it means for a White House that is projecting a newly aggressive populist image.
Meanwhile, Mike Lux, who has worked with Lew, explains why he “will be more at home with the kind of populist campaign the political guys in the White House and on the campaign need to run to win.”