This is the first ad out of the GOP camp on the “You Didn’t Build That” speech, and of course we can expect lots to follow…
The “You Didn’t Build That” boomlet looks like it won’t be going away anytime soon. AEI’s James Pethokoukis had some big-time reaction from Paul Ryan, with some great highlights included…
– “The idea that these entrepreneurs owe all their success to some government bureaucrat or some centralized planner just defies reality.”
– “Every now and then, President Obama pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time.”
– “We believe in free communities and this is a statist attack on free communities.”
– “He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures.”
– “As all of his big government spending programs fail to restore jobs and growth, he seems to be retreating into a statist vision of government direction and control of a free society that looks backward to the failed ideologies of the 20th century.”
– “Those of us who are conservative believe in government, we just believe government has limits. We want government to do what it does well and respect its limits so civil society and families can flourish on their own and do well and achieve their potential.”
– “He wants to be as transformational as Reagan by undoing the entire Reagan revolution.”
And then there was John Sununu, who is quickly becoming the best political attack dog in the country (a role he once held but had gone into a retirement of sorts), tearing Obama to shreds as a result of the president’s gaffe…
Sununu then followed up in a conference call the Romney campaign put on by saying of Obama, “I wish he would learn how to be an American.”
Romney, meanwhile, was in Pennsylvania today and gave a passionate speech in defense of American small business. As Power Line’s John Hinderaker says…
By all accounts, Mitt Romney was sensational today in Pennsylvania. His theme was Barack Obama’s revelatory “you didn’t build that” speech. Over the lunch hour (here in the Midwest), Twitter was burning up with commentary from those who were watching Romney’s speech live. The commentary was unanimously euphoric. Romney spoke without teleprompter or notes, something Obama rarely does without getting into trouble. He was, everyone agreed, passionate and articulate. It seems that Obama’s attack on entrepreneurs and job creators, and his baldly stated conviction that everyone owes everything to government, was the spark that Romney needed. It will see how his speech is reported on tonight.
Altogether, this does signal that the temperature is beginning to turn up. The Romney camp has been attempting to play this thing in a low-key fashion over the summer, when the majority of the swing voters out there simply aren’t paying enough attention to this race to make any major moves worthwhile, and by conserving their resources until the time is right they hope to be in a commanding position.
Call it the “Hold” strategy, courtesy of William Wallace…
When your opponent blows $50 million – or maybe $100 million by now – on negative ads in the dead of summer in swing states and doesn’t move the needle in the polls, that looks like a good strategy.
That said, there are lots of conservative activists out there who are showing the same faces you saw in that clip from Braveheart; namely, the “does this guy know what he’s doing, or are we about to get trampled?” face. Marc Thiessen, writing in the Washington Post, is certainly one…
Not to worry, says Team Romney. They point out that despite the attacks, their candidate is running even with Obama in the polls and is out-fund-raising a sitting president by a significant margin.
The problem is: It shouldn’t be a tie. Obama is coming off of the worst three months of an incumbent president during an election year in recent memory. Consider the litany of blunders and bad news he has suffered — from his declaration that “the private sector is doing fine,” to his ugly fight with Catholic leaders over his Health and Human Services mandate, to the controversy over his intelligence leaks, to his decision to invoke executive privilege in the “Fast and Furious” scandal, to the string of bad jobs reports that show we are in the weakest recovery since the Great Depression. Yet despite the endless stream of bad news, the president is running even with Romney. In fact, he’s gaining. Three months ago, Gallup had Romney with a five-point lead over the president; today, they are at 46-46.
Framed this way, the picture for Romney does not look so pretty.
Romney’s new ad declaring Obama a liar is a sign of life — but he’s still responding to attacks instead of launching them. The Post reports that Romney will fire a new salvo this week accusing the president of “crony capitalism” and contrasting “Obama’s political payoffs with middle class layoffs.” Said one adviser, “We’re turning the page.” Let’s hope so. We know Romney can brawl with the best of them; if he couldn’t, he would not be the GOP nominee today. The question is: Which Mitt Romney will we see over the next four months? The passive candidate who got trounced in South Carolina? Or the fighter who brawled his way to victory in Florida?
And Josh Barro, writing at Bloomberg, says Romney needs to give Obama a lot more blowback on his Bain Capital attacks…
Romney tries to confuse this issue by focusing on a handful of firms he was involved in founding, like Staples and Bright Horizons. Essentially, he talks about his work as though he had been in venture capital, not private equity. But an essential part of private equity is shutting down things that don’t work, or are too expensive. To succeed in private equity, you have to be comfortable being the hatchet man.
The funny thing is that, framed correctly, Romney could turn this into an asset. There are large parts of the government that don’t work or are too expensive. There is a culture in government of continuing to do things just because we’ve always done them, and continuing to employ people because we have always employed them. This doesn’t just make government expensive, it also crowds out resources that could be spent on improvements of public services.
A private equity mentality in the public sector could do a lot of good for making the government more efficient, and therefore serving taxpayers better. As I’ve written before, it’s not the solution to all the problems in American governance, but it would be a good approach for some of them, and Romney could talk about why.
Romney’s never going to convince people that he is likeable or relatable. He might be able to sell the idea that he’s the heartless bean counter America needs. But first he’ll have to drop the “Shocked, shocked, to find that outsourcing is going on in here” act.
We had discussed this before – the concept of Romney as Winston Wolf, the famous “cleaner” played by Harvey Keitel from Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece film Pulp Fiction…
Romney ought to run as Harvey Keitel. Everybody knows the federal government needs Winston Wolf to come in and do some major damage control, and fast. And while Winston Wolf is a pretty direct, not particularly sympathetic type – which is one of the main gripes folks have about Romney (the unsympathetic part, not the direct part; the direct part is what we’re suggesting he work on) – everybody likes the fact that he knows what he’s doing and he’s in control.
Romney, as it happens, has been Winston Wolf before. We wish he’d been Winston Wolf as governor of Massachusetts, but he wasn’t. But he was Winston Wolf in Salt Lake City, when he turned an Olympic Committee which was headed for abject disaster into a colossal success by shaking down the operation and making it run correctly just in time. It’s amazing that he’s never really touted that work; all this time he’s been running he’s tried to marry a withering media-driven assault on his opponents with this completely generic presentation of his own candidacy, and that’s been rather amazingly unsuccessful for him if you consider that he lost to John McCain of all people four years ago and even though he’s won Iowa and New Hampshire so far it’s still pretty clear that he’s nowhere near closing the sale with the GOP electorate this time around.
Just be The Cleaner. Be the guy who’ll fire the people who need to be fired and shut down the useless, wasteful programs that need to be shut down. Be Winston Wolf, who will come in and make the dysfunctional federal government live within its means and get out of people’s lives, and then you can get away with firing whomever you want.
We sense there is a great deal of animus about the federal government and its arrogance and dysfunction out there. Obama rode some of that into office four years ago. Romney is a guy who has never been one to ride a populist appeal into office, but perhaps this might be a good time to experiment.
Using Barro’s formulation, he might have an opening to try it.
The message might go something like this…
“We have a federal government which has to borrow 40 percent of every dollar it spends, which every day puts us more in thrall to the Chinese communists and lots of other people who don’t particularly have our best interests at heart. And every week we find out that what that spending results in is stuff like hookers for federal employees, giving guns to Mexican drug cartels and covering it up, suing states for trying to enforce laws the feds refuse to, paying more people to go on diisability than there are folks getting new jobs on net, blowing it on crony-connected companies private investors wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole and food stamps for illegal aliens.
“By any standard this is a federal government which is totally out of control. It’s beyond unaccountable and it behaves in an irresponsible fashion the Greeks and Spanish would laugh at. Federal salaries represent the largest honey pot imaginable – except for the military, the folks we absolutely need, who make next to nothing. And it’s not just the spending, it’s the regulation; when the business community groans under the weight of billions of dollars in needless regulation and private property rights are increasingly under assault because of snail darters or water ponds, we’re a society in which almost any individual activity is ultimately going to be discouraged unless it’s specifically prescribed by bureaucrats in Washington.
“This is no way to live. We’re going broke – fast. We’re losing our freedom – fast. We have to reverse course – fast. And we have a president who not only doesn’t have any ideas along these lines, he wants to move at full speed in the direction of more regulation, more spending, more irresponsibility and more arrogance. I don’t have to repeat all the signals he’s sending in this regard; he sends them daily. Everybody knows this; many of his supporters, rather than denying it, are egging him on.
“I propose a different path. I propose that we de-emphasize Washington’s role in our lives. I propose a simpler tax code which is easier for people to comply with and less subject to social engineering and manipulation by lobbyists and special interests – a tax code which is not only fairer and more competitive, but provides the certainty the business community needs to grow the economy and create jobs.
“And I propose taking a meat cleaver to these bloated, irresponsible, arrogant federal agencies who funnel cash to connected cronies and fix the market with punitive and stupid regulations. I propose to eliminate programs – major programs – which would be better conducted by state and local governments, or perhaps not run at all. I propose to shrink the federal bureaucracy. I propose to eliminate the horrid practice of baseline budgeting in Washington which builds in increases automatically, thus institutionalizing waste and fraud – as president you’ll see my budgets begin with a baseline of what was spent the previous year and not a penny more.
“I talk a lot about my experience in private business and why that’s important in this election. The president and his team have attempted to make me a caricature of a rapacious robber-baron, killing jobs and sending them overseas. This is generally a lie, of course, as is the majority of what that campaign says. We knew this would happen, since the President’s record isn’t one he can possibly run an honest campaign on. But the reason my record at Bain Capital matters is the lessons I learned about how the world works. Namely, you can’t have red ink. You have to trim the fat if you’re going to rescue an enterprise that’s in trouble. The companies we invested in at Bain were companies which had intrinsic worth but needed help to create an operation that could survive and prosper in the marketplace. And yes, we had to let some people go and we had to redo some contracts and sometimes that meant going overseas to find better business relationships. The vast majority of those instances occurred when the management team which took over after I’d left for the Olympics was in charge, but I can’t say that I would have disagreed because sometimes those business decisions needed to be made.
“The issue isn’t that businesses would outsource their operations overseas, it’s that it would make sense to do so. Most of these examples come out of the fact that our government has created stupid policies and a business environment which ill befits the greatest commercial society in the history of the world. I’m well-positioned to change that and bring jobs and capital back to our shores because I know why it left. Can the President say the same? No. He can’t. And he proves it every day.
“It’s about having the courage to make difficult decisions and get your own house in order. The federal government needs a massive shakedown and restructuring. That won’t happen without new management. The American people need to choose, and I believe we’re mature enough as a country to choose wisely.”