Romney Launches Bain Defense

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  January 13, 2012 at 8:30 AM EST

Mitt Romney; photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Mitt Romney greets supporters at a campaign rally Thursday at the West Palm Beach, Fla., Convention Center. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Mitt Romney is not going to let one of his old jobs stand in the way of what he hopes will be his next job.

The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination pushed back on criticism from his GOP rivals of his tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital, and he’s putting a new ad on the air saying those attacks are a mistake.

Romney acknowledged during a campaign stop Thursday in South Carolina that some of the businesses Bain took over lost jobs, but he claimed that the overall impact was a net addition of more than 100,000 jobs, reports Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times.

“Any time a job is lost it’s a tragedy,” Romney said. “For the family, for the individual that loses a job, it’s just devastating. And every time that we invested in the business it was to try and encourage that business to have ongoing life.”

“The reality is in the private sector that … there’s some businesses that have to be cut back in order to survive to try to make them stronger. Sometimes you’re successful at that and sometimes you’re not,” Romney added.

On Friday morning, Romney released an ad showing off the positives during his record at Bain. The spot also cites a Wall Street Journal editorial saying that Romney’s GOP rivals are “embarrassing themselves by taking the Obama line.”

Newt Gingrich has said the actions that Bain took under Romney’s leadership amounted to “looting a company, leaving behind broken families and broken neighborhoods,” and a super PAC supporting the former House speaker has television ads in South Carolina that use snippets of a 28-minute documentary slamming Romney’s stewardship of the company.

Huffington Post’s Jon Ward talks to a source close to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who gave the pro-Gingrich Winning our Future super PAC $5 million, and it turns out he might not be so comfortable with his money going to the Bain attacks.

From the story:

“I think people want to draw a conclusion that the money goes in and all $5 million is directed just towards $5 million of Bain Capital attacks on Mitt Romney, and that that’s exactly what Mr. Adelson wanted that money to be spent on,” the Adelson source said. “What if you donate to the Red Cross, and they do a hundred different things and you wanted it to just go to people in Haiti, and they sent it to people in Somalia instead and you didn’t think that was a priority? Are you going to call the Red Cross and demand that they just send the money to Haiti? You make a donation on a basis that the people receiving the money are going to spend it in the best way that you see fit,” the source added.

Rick Perry, meanwhile, has called Romney’s business practices “vulture capitalism,” although CBS News embed Rebecca Kaplan reports the Texas governor backed of that line of attack Thursday after he lost the support of a South Carolina fundraiser, in part over his Bain critique.

A number of conservative leaders have come to Romney’s defense in recent days, including South Carolina kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint, former Arkanas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue.

Romney has also received a little help from the super PAC backing his candidacy, Restore Our Future, which released a television ad in South Carolina and Florida criticizing Gingrich for his “desperate” attacks on Romney.

Romney’s business acumen has long been considered a plus for his candidacy, given that the economy and job creation are major themes of this year’s campaign.

The Washington Post’s Amy Gardner and Peter Wallsten look at how that could change depending on Romney fares at blunting the recent wave of attacks.

The debate over Romney’s business record may be an early test of what is all but certain to become a general-election debate if the former Massachusetts governor wins the GOP nomination.

If the issue picks up steam before the Jan. 21 Republican primary here, it could indicate that Romney would have a stiff challenge ahead persuading voters that his business record uniquely qualifies him to remake a broken government. If Romney is able to beat back the matter, it could suggest that Democrats will have to find another line of attack.

Case in point: The Obama campaign’s Stephanie Cutter penned a memo Friday morning with a scathing critique of Romney’s Bain tenure. “That is Romney’s record. His overwrought response to questions about it has been to insist that any criticism of his business record is an assault on ‘free enterprise’ itself,” Cutter writes.

She concludes on page four:

Between now and November the American people will decide whether to respond to this crisis by electing a corporate raider who profited from – and promises to restore – the conditions that caused it, or re-electing a President fighting to level the playing field for American businesses, restore fairness for consumers and help the middle class reclaim a sense of economic security that will benefit the entire economy. That’s what’s on trial, not “free enterprise.”

STREAMLINING GOVERNMENT

President Obama came to Washington promising to change the way government does business, and Friday he is expected to ask Congress for the authority to follow through on that pledge.

Ben Feller of the Associated Press reports:

Obama will call on Congress to give him a type of reorganizational power last held by a president when Ronald Reagan was in office. The Obama version would be a so-called consolidation authority allowing him to propose mergers that promise to save money and help consumers. The deal would entitle him to an up-or-down vote from Congress in 90 days.

The first order of business would be to merge six agencies that focus on commerce and trade into one unit. The targeted organizations include: the Commerce Department’s core business and trade functions; the Small Business Administration; the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; the Export-Import Bank; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; and the Trade and Development Agency.

An administration official tells Feller that between 1,000 and 2,000 jobs would be cut through attrition, and that the move would save some $3 billion over 10 years.

The major hurdle for the president will be convincing Republicans in Congress to give him greater power in an election year, even if that new authority would be used to achieve one of their main goals: shrinking the size of the federal government.

TEA PARTY WARMING TO ROMNEY?

Conversations with conservatives who once griped they weren’t thrilled with Romney now have a tone of resignation. Party activists are slowly starting to get behind the front-runner, and his rivals are still splitting the votes of conservatives who want anyone but him.

There’s been scant South Carolina polling. One survey released Thursday had Romney leading Newt Gingrich, 23 percent to 21 percent. But Romney remains strongly favored in Florida, which will be the first test of a diverse electorate that more closely resembles the nation than Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina.

This weekend there will be a Tea Party Convention in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in advance of Monday’s debate. But it’s not clear that activists will have much sway over the primary result on Jan. 21. Evan McMorris-Santoro, who has been on the ground in the Palmetto State all week, explored the Tea Party’s frustration in South Carolina.

From his story:

[N]ow that all eyes are finally on the state, few expect the Tea Party to win it for Gingrich — or anyone else, for that matter. Why? The insurgent movement that was the story of 2010 is split, deeply divided among Gingrich, Rick Santorum and to some extent even Romney. Not even Tea Partiers themselves expect their vote to push one candidate over the top.

In Rock Hill, near the North Carolina border, it was clear why. At the back of Gingrich’s big event stood Swain Sheppard and Paul Anderko, two leaders of GPS Conservatives For Action PAC, a Tea Party-leaning conservative activist group in Rock Hill. Both men were wearing Newt 2012 stickers, but Anderko is really on the fence (though leaning Romney). Sheppard likes Gingrich.

Though the pair agreed on politics enough to start an activist group together, their disagreements on the 2012 race are indicative of the wider conservative split in South Carolina.

On those nasty Bain Capital attacks, for example, Anderko said Gingrich should stop the rhetoric that Rush Limbaugh called anti-capitalist.

“I kind of agree with Rush,” Sheppard said. “As conservatives, our goal is to beat Obama…he is a socialist, period.”

Sheppard added that Perry’s “vulture capitalism sh*t” means “that’s it, he’s done.”

2012 LINE ITEMS

The Morning Line chatted Thursday with a top aide to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum who said South Carolina is far from the candidate’s last stand. The campaign is staffing up in Florida and Nevada ahead of the February caucuses. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., became Santorum’s first congressional endorsement on Thursday, and the campaign hinted more are to come. You can track the Hill endorsements here.

Romney will “highlight his credentials as a firm opponent of illegal immigration in an appearance Monday with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who co-authored Arizona’s controversial immigration law,” The Hill reports.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to endorse Romney before the Sunshine State’s primary on Jan. 31, reports BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller.

The Washington Post has a fun quiz to help folks keep track of which super PAC belongs to which candidate.

Be sure to tune in to Friday evening’s NewsHour for analysis of the 2012 race from Mark Shields and David Brooks.

TWEETS OF THE MORNING

@HotlineReid: Ron Paul won 2,273 write-in votes, Romney 1,808 and Huntsman 1,228 in the NH Dem primary #HotlineSort

@jonkarl: Perry just flubbed his 3 agencies again in a radio intv. @ArletteSaenz reports he said “commerce, interior and energy” What about education?

OUTSIDE THE LINES

HBO set release dates for two political projects. “Game Change,” based on Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s book on the 2008 presidential race, premieres March 10. The half-hour comedy “Veep,” will debut April 22.

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., announced Thursday that he would retire at the end of the next term rather than run in a redrawn congressional district that leans Democratic.

Putting his money where his mouth is in the spending debate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Thursday that he’s returning $500,000 of unspent funds from his office budget to the U.S. Treasury.

First lady Michelle Obama joined Twitter. She’s following five accounts: the Obama campaign, campaign manager Jim Messina, the White House, Let’s Move and Joining Forces.

Stephen Colbert is exploring a run for “president of the United States of South Carolina.”

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis are among those selected to be spring fellows at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. The Democrats will lead weekly, off-the-record study groups for undergraduate students.

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • Newt Gingrich campaigns in Florida, hosting a breakfast meet-and-greet in Miami at 8:45 a.m. and attending the opening of his Orlando campaign headquarters at 11:30 a.m. He later travels to South Carolina for a Spartanburg GOP forum and BBQ in Duncan at 7 p.m.

  • Rick Perry holds three South Carolina meet-and-greets: in Hilton Head at 9 a.m., Bluffton at 12:30 p.m. and Charleston at 5 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney campaigns in South Carolina, hosting a rally in Aiken at 12:25 p.m. and a veterans event in Hilton Head at 5:05 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum makes four campaign stops in South Carolina: a Rock Hill town hall at 10 a.m., a York meet-and-greet at 12:30 p.m., a Gaffney cookout at 2:30 p.m. and a Spartanburg GOP dinner in Duncan at 6:30 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


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Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @quinnbowman.