Today’s Courier Herald Column:
With the votes cast in New Hampshire, the Presidential campaign is now officially moving South. South Carolina will hold its primary on January 21st, with Florida following ten days later on January 31st.
Figuratively, the campaign headed south in earnest over the past week, with candidates facing elimination pressure lashing out at each other with an increasingly negative fervor. Newt Gingrich, who had earlier pledged a positive campaign, now calls that phase “an experiment”, and has joined Rick Perry in directing his ire and resources toward front runner Mitt Romney.
The attacks on Romney center on his time managing the turnaround firm Bain Capital. Perry charges that Bain practiced “Vulture Capitalism”, in which Bain took advantage of companies which were struggling, heartlessly closed factories and laid off workers, and put profits ahead of people. It’s an interesting argument, mostly because one would not expect it to come from a Republican, or at least, not someone who embraces capitalism.
Stories have illustrated how Bain’s companies have had mixed results, with roughly 1 out of 5 declaring bankruptcy or closing within 8 years of Bain’s involvement. Given the nature of the companies that Bain acquired, that statistic should instead be looked at as an 80% success rate, which is pretty strong for longevity considering the shape the companies were in before Bain took a risk on them.
Those that did survive did so because Bain focused on core assets, and ensured that labor and capital were used efficiently for maximum results. Those resources which were not necessary to the company’s core mission were eliminated. While it sounds cold and heartless, that is what capitalism is. Needed resources should be used efficiently and effectively. Those which are not are pared so that they can be redeployed elsewhere to provide a positive contribution in another application. The economy is strongest when all resources – labor and capital – are deployed where they can maximize their productivity. Retaining non-productive assets and employees is only harmful in the long run.
The core argument against Romney’s electability has been that he takes the “Obamacare” argument off of the table, as he was the Governor that implemented “Romneycare”, complete with an individual mandate, in Massachusetts.
Yet with the economy continuing to struggle and unemployment persistently high, voters are now much more focused on economic issues than on health care reform. Republicans who have decried “class warfare” and “socialism” are now using the exact same language of the far left to attack the candidate who has now won the first two Republican contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Perry, for his part, is running a Zombie campaign, having received just 1% in New Hampshire after a disappointing performance in Iowa. His attacks reek of desperation and are unlikely to help him, but hurt Republicans in general.
Gingrich has returned to early campaign form, where his attacks on Romney are reminiscent of his “Right-wing social engineering” attack on Paul Ryan’s budget plan and, by extension, the entire GOP strategy on entitlement reform. Gingrich’s current line of attack on Romney is one that is probably doing more harm for his own candidacy than helping, and will likely produce fodder that will be used against the GOP in a general election campaign.
Perhaps the height of Gingrich’s hypocrisy was achieved in one of the weekend debates when he asked Romney to cut out the “pious boloney” by stating he made a choice to be in the private sector instead of being a career politician. This is the same Gingrich, after all, who spent most of December justifying the $1.6 Million he received from Freddie Mac as the work of private enterprise because they needed a good historian. Pious baloney indeed.
It’s not unusual to reach a point in a campaign where desperate candidates lob grenades as Hail Mary passes as their last play of the game. Perry should be immediately benched, and Gingrich needs a 15 yard penalty. Romney needs to continue to be vetted, but for his actual record against real conservative principles. Listening to several of his challengers, it’s clear that the only real principle in politics for some – conservative or otherwise – is winning. Voters – conservative or otherwise – deserve better.