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The Bain of His Campaign

Could inflict considerable pain.

Jan 23, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 18 • By TOD LINDBERG
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Romney needs to be able to answer the charges. He needs an answer that he knows inside and out and can produce on demand whether he is fresh or tired. He needs an answer that doesn’t make him sound either defensive, or complacent and arrogant. He needs an answer that radiates his comfort with it as it acknowledges the legitimacy of the question itself. And to judge by his first forays over the past week in response to the first airing of these charges, he hasn’t got one yet.

The counterattack from the right on Gingrich and Perry​—​which came mostly from Romney boosters but also from some prominent Romney skeptics, notably Rush Limbaugh​—​was essentially an effort to change the subject. It was surely heartfelt, either in the straight up “pro-capitalist is pro-Bain” sense or in the attenuated form that attacking Romney on these terms would give aid and comfort to Democrats. And indeed, Democrats will no doubt use Gingrich and Perry soundbites in the fall if Romney is the nominee. One wonders, though, how damaging such clips will be. In the 1980 primary season, George H. W. Bush famously accused Ronald Reagan of “voodoo economics,” and not only did this not hurt Reagan, Bush ended up his vice presidential nominee on a ticket that won in a landslide.

Suppose Gingrich and the rest hadn’t brought up Bain. Romney and those around him would still know the attack was coming, but they wouldn’t have had the visceral experience of feeling its sting and having to respond​—​in fact, failing to respond well. They would have had to learn about their weakness and try to correct it under the much higher-pressure circumstances of the general election campaign. And all those news stories now appearing​—​“At Bain, Romney believed in ‘creative destruction’ ” (Washington Post, January 12)​—​would still be in the can, waiting for release in support of an Obama onslaught.

Unfortunately, Romney’s position vis-à-vis the GOP nomination is probably strong enough now for him to address this issue by ignoring it. If he does, he will have missed an opportunity to work on something he needs to get right long before November.

His dislike for Gingrich now is probably as thorough as vice versa. Which is too bad, because Romney really ought to thank Gingrich for raising Bain now​—​maybe buy him a pair of cufflinks from Tiffany’s.

Tod Lindberg, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and editor of Policy Review, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

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