Zakaria: Romney’s real problem
Republican U.S. presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (Getty Images)
January 11th, 2012
06:52 PM ET

Zakaria: Romney’s real problem

Editor’s Note: You can now buy episodes of CNN GPS online through iTunes.

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Despite the tea party’s extraordinary energy over the past year, it looks like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will win his party’s nomination.  At the end of the day, Republicans are following a familiar pattern: Nominating the mainstream candidate who has waited his turn. This is the party that’s had a Bush or a Dole on its ticket for 20 years. It’s a party that also had Richard Nixon on its presidential ticket for 20 years.

In 2011-2012, we’ve learned that the tea party’s passion was not enough to change the Republican Party. However, something else is changing the party, and you can see it in the attack ads Romney’s opponents are running against him.

Watch: Why we can’t cut our way back to more jobs.

His opponents have gone against Romney on two levels. First, they have called him a “Massachusetts moderate.” After deploying this epithet, Romney’s opponents point to specific positions of his that deviate from party orthodoxy: Romney’s health care plan is strikingly similar to Obama’s; Romney’s positions on abortion and gays used to be a lot more liberal than they are now; etc.

Even though this seems like a fairly coherent line of attack (Romney has described himself as moderate, after all), it’s not having much traction. Perhaps this is because voters think Romney would be more viable in a general election. Perhaps they feel he has genuinely changed his mind. Or perhaps they don’t care that he’s flip-flopped (I’ve often thought that hardcore activists almost like the fact that you are pandering to them; it gives them a sense of power).

Watch: What’s behind America’s jobless recovery?

Instead, a second line of attack has been gaining traction against Romney – that of Romney as job-killer or Romney as the private equity guy, who buys companies, hollows them out and outsources jobs.

Now it is striking that this attack is coming in a Republican presidential primary. After all, what Romney did while at Bain Capital was classic capitalist “creative destruction.” He took over businesses and tried to make them more productive and efficient. To do so, he often had to shed jobs.

Watch: GPS Special – Getting Back to Work.

Republicans should be celebrating Romney’s prior work as an example of how the market functions – driving out inefficiency, generating productivity and creating a lean, mean capitalist machine.

The fact that Romney’s past has turned into a line of attack tells you that something has changed in America. Even in the Republican Party, there is a huge concern about what globalization and technological change are doing to the average, middle-class American. There is a sense that the system is not working for the median American worker. 

Read: Fareed Zakaria on how to create jobs in America

If you look at job creation over the last 20-25 years in America, you’ll notice that we haven't been able to create any jobs in what is called the “tradable sector” of the economy - those jobs that are subject to global competition. The only jobs we’ve really created have been in industries like health care, government, and construction, which are basically local industries shielded from global competition. You can't outsource the building of a New York skyscraper to a Chinese worker.

America hasn’t been able to create jobs in any sector that’s subject to global and technological pressures. As a result, there is a huge sense of disillusionment, disappointment and pessimism among Americans.

Watch: Why Obama should declare a jobs emergency.

None of the Republicans are addressing this problem centrally. They’re simply talking about cutting government spending as if that is going to solve the problem of creating new industries, opportunities and jobs. Simply cutting government strikes me as a very inadequate response to a massive challenge.

Hopefully during the general election, we’ll have a substantive national debate about how to create jobs in America.

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soundoff (641 Responses)
  1. o

    What most people fail to understand is the free market capitalism creates wealth, not jobs. No company goes into business with the explicit mission of creating jobs.They're in it to make money. And you can bet that any business would lay off every employee to maximize profits if they could create the same product for less money. This has been the trend for the past 30 years, with few notable exceptions, that more often not turned into spectacular failures.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Reply
    • Frank

      And that's what separates business leaders from political leaders. When a business man fires a worker (whether he enjoys it or not) that person just disappears for his purposes. A political leaders is responsible for the fate of all the citizens of his country, employed or not. He can't simply ignore those who don't meet his standards.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  2. JP

    "Even in the Republican Party, there is a huge concern about what globalization and technological change are doing to the average, middle-class American. There is a sense that the system is not working for the median American worker." To be honest you are pretty naive to even think that Perry and Newt are attacking Romney over this ... this is just the new form of campaigning. Well, Newt is just being Newt and is out for his revenge, party be damned. And Perry ... well, he just wants the power and could not care less about the American worker. He will say/do whatever it takes. But neither one cares a hoot about the American worker.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
    • Frank

      I suspect that you are right, but Romney doesn't seen to share that concern.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Reply
  3. Vultures for Romney

    Romney's biggest problem is he is running as a Republican. They don't take kindly to moderates......gays, liberals, Mormon's, illegal immigrants, etc,. Almost everyone except white protestants.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
  4. sunny lovetts

    His biggest problem is his record.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  5. C

    No more war! Vote Peace. Vote Ron Paul 2012!

    January 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
  6. Detada

    If Romney intends to use to the Bain Capital model for job creation, no thanks.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  7. foregoneconclusion

    Actually, Romney is being targeted by conservatives and progressives alike for the companies that failed under Bain and yet still made millions of dollars in profit for them despite that failure. That's the part of Romney's record that doesn't look so good: the part where cynical manipulation of the lending and bankruptcy code is what made the money, not "reorganization" or "increased efficiency" efforts. Bain also pocketed bailout $$ from the federal government and left the taxpayers on the hook for pension funds of Bain companies that went bankrupt.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  8. Mike

    Until we come to define what it is that the government is doing, who is doing it and actively engage the day to day process of governance, we will continue to make broad, unrealistic assumptions about what government actually does. This will result in throwing money at ineffective programs, while rendering critical and effective programs useless. Its time to engage the civil servants and their "customers" directly for what works and resign politicians to their place as the purveyors of fairy tales.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  9. TWH

    i'm really having trouble distinguishing Mittens from Obama....Mittens appears to have changed his stance on issues to suit his political gain. I don't want more of the same. Typical, smooth talking, politicians....

    January 12, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  10. Gary

    Seriously, Fareed? Is this supposed to be objective journalism here? You say "Romney's Health Care plan is strikingly similar to Obama's." That comment is at best misleading since you're referring to the plan enacted when he was governor. His current Health Care plan is nowhere near Obamacare and he has vowed to repeal it. You also say the Republicans' only plan to create jobs is to cut government spending. That's not remotely true. Their plan is to cut burdensome regulations and remove punishing taxes which inhibit job creation and the expansion of business. In fact, the GOP controlled Congress has passed several jobs bills while the Democrat Senate lets the bills languish. God forbid you would mention any of that. And third, the reason why Gingrich and Santorum are attacking Romney on his record at Bain isn't because of a shift in ideology regarding businesses in America, it's because they're desperate. If these attacks had any legitimacy, you wouldn't be seeing Romney's poll numbers going up because of it. Your show says GPS, but you are completely lost my friend. There's a place for criticism and analysis but if you are going to hide facts and mislead people, get out of the business and just write a blog.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Reply
    • foregoneconclusion

      The problem is that business generally doesn't base hiring on the tax code or regulations. They base it on demand for their products and services. Low demand = low hiring. Romney and other "pro business" GOP candidates should already know that. It's a basic tenant of a supply and demand based economy.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply
    • Abba

      I'm sorry, but he will not repeal it. Senator John Chafee in 1993 came up with a Republican health care plan to oppose Clintons offering. This later become the template for BOTH Romneycare *and* Obamacare. They are one in the same, and BOTH are full-on Republican health care plans. They have always been that way. All the Democrat plans have been single payer plans, which neither of these are.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  11. richj1313

    I never in my life imagined that the nature and merit of capitalism would become a political argument between Democrats and Republicans, let alone Republicans and Republicans. We’re at the precipice, we’re standing on the cliff with one foot over the edge. I’m asking, begging everyone to please step back before it’s too late.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  12. Jason

    I was an avid supporter of prop 8 until I bought a second subway in a mormon district. The problem with mormons is that they discriminate on non mormons. I didnot hire my employees based on religion but had a few mormon patrons in a heavily mormon district. I had even a few mormon patrons even suggesting to me to convert to mormonism to get a lot more business. I would never vote for a mormon or trust a mormon again. Their belief in their being somehow superior because of their faith makes them the most prejudiced pompous ricks. It would a big mistake for any christian to vote for this cult.
    The second problem comes from the mormons thinking themselves to be gods if romney is elected and in his term finishes his 459th step and starts believing himself to be god what would prevent him from implementing a final solution like hitler? Romney has a track record of killing jobs without remorse or any empathy for the families he destroyed(knowing mormons I believe it comes from the belief that he is not harming any mormons). If elected he would convert America into a scene from madmax movie.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • Brandon

      Jason, I am sorry you feel that way but all Mormons I know are generally well meaning, peaceful, caring people. Then again, you do sound a bit drunk.

      January 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  13. Marty

    Note to Fareed: PLEASE stop saying "at the end of the day". Thank you.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  14. ct

    Romney is the 1%

    January 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  15. Kelly

    So all the governments leaders say its hard to erase our deficit. Why is that they don't take their campaign money and put it towards the u.s. deficit and show us that they are trying to be great leaders not just talk about how they will be great leaders.


    January 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  16. Malcolmscott

    Romney and the rest of the GOP keep "blaming" Obama for the economy. Obama should say "Thank you". For almost every month since he has been president the rate of job loses has dropped and job gains has grown. So if they want to keep reminding people of that then bless them.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  17. RomneyisaRACISTMORMON

    Romney is a RACIST MORMON who is for abortions, more illegal wars, carbon tax, open borders, amnesty for illegals, gun control, wrote Obamacare and made his money by outsourcing American jobs...we might as well just keep Omamba!

    January 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Reply
    • Knucklehead

      you just convinced me to vote for him

      January 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Reply
      • Knucklehead

        ...except the war part....

        January 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  18. Triple A

    Actually his main problem will be the BHO's lap dog media that will do nothing to make him look good and everything to make him look bad. I just hope that Main Stream America can see through it all and vote what they think is right. No matter the outcome the voter should vote on somewhat accurate info not just the Left leaning media bs.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  19. burrke

    Zakaria before I even entertain the idea of commenting on your liberal commentary, please polish up your English. What's your problem? I know you have to dumb down your language but this too dumbed down, man...yo!

    January 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  20. parkmore

    We do not believe to ads (period) You are waisting your time talking about worthless and meaningless topics

    January 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  21. Knucklehead

    "Even in the Republican Party, there is a huge concern about what globalization and technological change are doing to the average, middle-class American." --i don't see why anyone is surprised about this. This is the natural outcome of NAFTA and GATT.... Perot talked about that great sucking sound....seems like people are only starting to notice.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  22. Oldfan

    Ron Paul's honesty is Romneys real problem!
    Not to mention Romneys flippity flops!

    January 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Reply
  23. Dude

    Your article hit the nail right on the head. No U.S. politician has successfully tackled the issues raised by globalism. We can't cut taxes or lower worker wages enough to compete with countries where workers make a fraction of our minimum wage. Illegal immigrants and H1B are undercutting our workers domestically. Neither U.S. political party is offering a solution.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  24. Larry

    Romney is just another Bush...another weak president...meaning that it will be another Vice President led oval office.

    God help us all.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  25. ArizonaYankee

    Oh and of course, Obama has no problems....CNN the socialist network never stops, but always covers for the worthless communist Obama.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  26. GrayFox

    ////// "Even in the Republican Party, there is a huge concern about what globalization and technological change are doing to the average, middle-class American." ///////

    Oh, Fareed, I hope you are not so naive to really believe this.. the attacks on Romney from his own crowd are not because they got enlightened all of a sudden.. the attacks are meant to cut him down to size.. that's all..

    January 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  27. donna

    Mitt lost to Kennedy. Mitt lost his reelection. Mitt lost to McCain. Mitt is completely lost.

    Obama 2012

    January 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  28. David

    This article touches on something I've been saying for years. For 20 years we've been unable to create jobs in any field that is subject to globalization. 20 years. In this time we have moved even further into the post-industrialism of the information age. Rather than beating our hands on the walls trying to create jobs we know will not survive, we could repurpose the same energy, passion, and resources into reforming our educational system, opening new doors both for those who have had the misfortune of losing their jobs to globalization, and to future generations so they are able to find a place in the new world. We can continue to ignore the writing on the wall, or we can embrace a future for America that is brighter than anything we've experienced yet.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  29. Stan

    He's no moderate. His company started small and as it became successful, he took the jobs overseas. Key here is that his company was successful before he took the jobs overseas. It's the greed of more money that made him make the move resulting in jobs lost. He said it recently... he likes to fire people. That's what made him successful.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  30. Jaszbo Christus

    I have decided to stop relying on mere men for my personal prosperity and well-being. Rather, I depend on Jesus Christ. Eventually, whoever is elected will kneel to Him anyway.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
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