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. asdf

    vote for vermin supreme
    Check him out on youtube

    January 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  2. Bookenz

    How can you state what Romney is in support of or what his views are? He continues to change his position.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  3. Mark

    ""There were a number of those people in the last election running for offices in California. EVERY ONE of them lost. Democrats won every office which was up for grabs, including local dogcatcher.""

    Yes I did notice th at happened. But tell me one thing. How is that working out for you in California? I mean considering the state is broke!"

    January 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  4. vic , nashville ,tn

    Romney’s problem is Romney is that simple

    January 12, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  5. treblemaker

    Romney's problem is simple-he's a Republican. He should be a Democrat, and run directly against President Obama. That would be his only chance to win. As for the rest of the candidates, they're not worthy of the office. Not even Ron Paul, who I would vote for if I were a Republican. But I am an independent who has voted for the candidate, not the party.

    As for jobs, just turn the unemployment figure around-over 90% are still working. The problem is not how many are working or not, but the type of jobs that are available nowadays. If you remove all the minimum wage and part-time jobs from the equation, then you get a true indicator of the mess we're in. The American Dream of owning your home, making enough money to raise a family, is becoming a fantasy, and that's how the multinational corporations want it to stay. As long as the people are kept in a fearful and desperate financial situation, we are under their control. THAT-is the legacy left behind by the most destructive president of any generation-Ronald Wilson Reagan. He opened the door. More to come later.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  6. 333

    As always you young people are mentally bankrupt. One generation blames the one before. It is always somebody else's fault. So sad.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  7. snake

    if the republicans what a republican president, they better nominate RON PAUL. i klnow that just the mention of ron paul scares or leaves a bad taste in any republican's mouth, but he is their only hope and america's only hope. romney, gingrich, or any of the rest guarantees obama gets reelected

    January 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  8. coy4one

    This article seems one-sided to me. I am not sure if the author is a Republican complaining, or a Republican supporting. I think that in trying to make Romney look good for his efforts at Bain, you took one side of the story. First, the overall intentions of most venture capitalists are to make money. The more money the better! In doing so, cut costs! Outsource, if you have to. Layoff, and find cheaper products and services. The word "quality" is hardly used as it usually means increased costs. And, having read many of the responses to this article whereby people are writing that their companies are doing well and hiring, I work in an industry that in the mid-1990s was all American, but today is about 30% American and the remaining is outsourced to Mexico, Central American, and the Far East/India. AT&T, Cincinnati Bell, Convergys, most your computer manufactures, and the IT industry as a whole outsources more than 1/2 t0 3/4 of their service support operations to foreign countries. We are talking hundreds of thousands, if not in the millions now of employees' jobs lost in the USA. For those of us who remain in the U.S., we see raises on average of 3% every two years, when the cost of living rises approximately 6% per year. Since I came to my company, we have been purchased by investment firms multiple times, each time with massive layoffs due to consolidations and outsourcing. So, don't give me this stuff about how Romney should be praised for his work with Bain. He and his work at Bain killed, not only American jobs, but the futures of many struggling Americans whose dreams now are to find ways to make ends meet, afford healthcare on dwindling benefits, and if lucky afford education for their children. And for those Obama haters, this started a long time ago with a few Presidents in office, so don’t try to convince me that it’s a Democrat thing. In fact, I ONLY voted Republican until I switched in the second term of George W. Bush’s term.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  9. JOE

    The Republicans are asking President Obama where are the jobs but first of all, the jobs you're asking for disappeared with the economic crisis you people created. Secondly, Mitt Romnet and the GOP are yet to explain why their friend and Republican Governor of Florida Rick Scott killed so many jobs by turning down the High-Speed Rail project proposed by the Obama administration. And they're yet to explain why for three straight years they have opposed a comprehensive jobs bill proposed by this administration.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Reply
    • FLIndependent

      That's right Joe. I live in Florida and Rick Scott turned down the funding for high speed rail. It is very obvious to those that pay attention that the stimulus may not have been as effective as it should have been because, like Scott, a number of the Repub governors either turned down the money our used it in ways that did not create jobs.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  10. Doug

    CNN has a duty to Time-Warner stock holders to run the stories that people WANT to read, thereby maximizing advertising revenue. It is not Time-Warner's job to be a nanny-corporation that tries to force readers to read things that are good for them. CNN's only obligation is to Time-Warner stockholders. CNN has no responsibility to you.

    If the customer wants a banana split, you sell him a banana split. You don't tell him that a bowl of spinach would be better for him.

    El Flaco,
    So what you are suggesting is that the media should not be fair and unbiased, but instead should feed people banana splits an what ever else the people want to hear. The Ministry of Truth in the book,1984 operated in a similar fashion. But they went a step further. They changed the past to reflect the present, kinda like Bush did with his explanation of going into Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction quickly turned to liberating the Iraqis. Is this REALLY the kind of news you want?If so, turn to Fox News.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  11. Roy

    The crisis that America is in reflects the politcal circus we are entertained with everyday. Putting the right political puppet in office is all about money. The American people and the occupy movement should be revolting right now for complete reform of our political election system. Who really gives a crap what CNN has to say, Who really gives a crap about all these insane political ads that attempt to stab each other in the back while in the same party, what insanity. In fact the system is such a laughing stock and only caters to the millions of American idiots who like hype, bravado and political entertainment. I can just vision right now a typical idiot saying something like this: "I think Romeny has charisma and speaks well on the issues thats why I will elect him". Another lame idiot in the public that has no wisdom and knowledge. Whats even more interesting, take a poll of every American voter and have them provide you an intelligent report on each candidate with sound rational reasoning backed by facts and see what the result will be, you will find how uneducated the public really is, how easily they are persuaded and how misinformed they really are.
    Its time for the American people to get their act together, not the politicians for we already know their end game. If you want real change do your homework and avoid the media.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  12. John Smith

    Fareed Zakaria is great at explaining things in an easily understandable manner.

    Simply put, we've outsourced our way to the bottom.

    Now we have a service economy, propped up by insidious marketing. A pill for everything and McMansions for everyone, for profit Universities, etc.

    All of these propped up service industries are bubbles and when they burst we'll find out the balloon is filled with poop. 🙂

    January 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
    • Greeny Meany

      The eco progressives have gotten what they wanted – chased manufacturing plants from the borders of the US, as far as they could chase them.. Now their chickens have come home to roost and their solution is more of the same.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Reply
    • BADGUY

      Unfortunately, you're right.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  13. Bill

    fareed, you are way off the mark on romney and how it appears to you some voters are less interested in his baggage – perhaps you should have qualified that as republicans voters may be doing so – we democrats are quite keen of his anti middle class practices and will hold him to it. more disturbingly is your notion that what he did at bain is good capitialism – he was/is a vuture who would take over small businesses to suck any value it had left by making them go into debt to allow him to take out his huge fees – and let those compamies go banckrupt and destroy jobs if they couldn't afford to buy him out or if a buyer could not be found. sometimes he would do it very indirectly, like with the "Lifelike company" where he planted a relative at a 100,000 year salary who went bust after 4 years of trying to get out of their new debt and extra payroll. perhaps more research is necessary at your end – fareed

    January 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  14. Robeez

    Romney and Bain didn't have to shed jobs, they did so the CEO and Stockholders could make more money. It was a short term "how can we make the most money right now" strategy that typically ran every company into the ground. The funny part is that you have to go to the people that lost their jobs to find out about it because the company is private and can do whatever they want without having to report it to anyone.

    It was Bain who consulted with companies and told them to cut things like retirement benefits and health care so the guys at the top could make more money. I believe that has been part of what led to our current economic downfall. Could you imagine giving the top job to the guy who was a big part in creating the problem in the first place? Doesn't seem to matter who is there...if you aren't already rich in this're screwed..

    January 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  15. george in exas

    fareed analysis is off, way off. usa does not have the right trade equation with china, and romney has eloquently articulated that; a state of affair which he will fix it with china. ron paul too has spoken wonderfully on this. fareed is wrong as well in terms of job creation in high tech. the jobs in high tech are going begging in usa. we have a manpower problem, not a job problem in high technology. our exports are up as well. however, europe is causing a slow down. we have actually managed to avoid a recession. however, china is a problem only because the chinese do not allow the real free market to work. they continue to manipualte their currency, block our exports, our legal structure increases our cost of production, our tax structure needs a change on and on. ron paul can do it better than obama or romney can.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  16. Not All Docs Play Golf

    A Republican dies and goes to heaven, and St. Pete assigns him posh living quarters with gilded accessories, etc. Another younger saint asks why such royal treatment, and St. Pete responds...."My son, we've never HAD a Republican before."

    January 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Reply
    • MustReason

      That's as old as the crust in your mamas underwear 🙂

      January 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  17. Barry G.

    It’s much simpler than that. Americans are just starting to realize what’s been going on in Washington over the past few decades.

    Americans are starting to realize that the key to wealth and success is buying favors and preferential treatment from our senators and congress, by the use of lobbyists.

    Sadly this corrupt practice is legal.

    Imagine that!

    January 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Reply
    • m

      Buying politicians is nothing new. It has been going throughout our history. It just seems more obvious today because of the ability to get news out instantaneously. Every major business interest has bought off politicians – land grabs, oil, steel, shipping, mining, banks, you name it. Even our revered Abraham Lincoln was involved in sweet deals with the railroads during the construction of the trans-continental railroad.

      America is not the greatest country in the world, at least not anymore and it will continue to get worse until people start realizing that fact.

      January 13, 2012 at 1:25 am | Reply
      • Barry G.

        I’m sure the practice of buying of politicians has existed since time immemorial (since the Egyptians or the Mesopotamians, for that matter), but it’s still wrong; it harms decent people, and it’s not in the best interests of decent citizens.

        This is why the great Hebrew prophets railed against any form of corruption. (See: Moses, Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, etc.)

        Which leader would boast (or admit) that they’ve taken money, in exchange for favors?

        They’re ashamed of it, and rightfully so; so they deny they’ve done it, when then can, and they rationalize it, when they can’t deny it.

        Americans should insist it stop!

        January 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  18. MustReason

    Mr. Zakaria has a tendency to over interpret and bestow grand theories to events that have a far simpler explanation. The reason Romney's "jobs record" is under attack by Republican primary candidates has nothing to do with some fundamental shift in GOP thinking, but is rather a function of the primary process. Desperate to stop Romney, candidates are hurling whatever criticism they can get their hands on to see if it sticks.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  19. Jonathan

    This column and the responses in this column-(from both the right and left)-are exactly what is wrong with Congress and our government functioning properly.
    So much ideology, so much partisan rancor.
    It's honestly disgusting.

    Like Obama has not completed one good thing and offers absolutely zero to the American public?
    Like Newt, Mitt, Ron Paul and Huntsman have no merits and bring nothing to the table ?

    Give me a break.
    Give the country a break.
    Give us middle class-praying we dont get fired- Americans a break.

    What is the singular most important challenge facing the country today?
    Taxes? Get real.
    Iran? Are you kidding me?
    Gay Marriage? Seriously? This is the one issue you are going to decide a President over?
    Global Warming ? My head is starting to spin.
    I could make a list a mile long but it all honestly boils down to one thing.
    The economy.

    Nobody has any worth unless they are in 100% lockstep agreement with every single party position, right ?

    People gripe n moan about a dysfunctional congress but righties can't admit that the left has done some serious good for America and we have had some amazing left leaning Presidents.
    People are up in arms because we can't pass the simplest legislation without threat of veto but lefties won't give the slightest bit of credit to the right or right leaning presidents on any number of issues.

    Whatever happened to moderation and compromise?

    People want to crucify Romney because he created wealth for his investors?
    People want to burn the one guy who has serious real world experience overcoming the single biggest challenge facing the next president because he had the audacity to want everyone in his state to have health insurance?

    It just boggles my mind.
    We have the government we deserve.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Reply
    • BADGUY

      Romney created wealth for his investors by stealing the pensions and jobs from people that "actually worked for a living". The guy is a leech. Without working Americans to such blood from, he'd have withered away long ago.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Reply
      • Jonathan

        He didn't steal pensions or suck blood.
        He laid people off.
        Lots of people.
        He also created opportunity where there was failure.

        Nature prunes itself all the time and people don't get all up in arms over it.
        Forest fires, wars between ant colonies, predator/prey is natural.
        Layoffs are a harsh reality of the business cycle.
        This doesn't make him a bad man, a thief or a vampire.
        It makes him a savvy business leader able to make the tough decisions.

        January 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  20. Dave

    “substantive national debate”, are you serious?

    January 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  21. Stuck in the Middle

    From all the posts I've read, I see one problem: divisiveness. One blames the left; another, the right. Jon Huntsman has it right: Country First. It isn't about party or ideology. It's about what's best for all of us that will allow those who want to be employed to do so. There are also unique factors involved that haven't been in play on this level: the effect of the economies of the rest of the world. It's a domino effect: if one goes down, there's a ripple effect in nightmare rocket rides in the stock market, lost profits and lost jobs. There are also systemic issues such as the availability of H-1 visas (those legal workers from overseas to fill American jobs) and the lack of readiness of our own citizens to qualify for the new jobs out there, much are high-tech. It isn't a matter of cutting spending or raising taxes. A new philosophy needs to be adopted by all involved, including government. However, with 527 organizations (Super PACS) driving the debate these days and money flowing into the US government – and it's protected by the Supreme Court as Free Speech – it's going to be a hard sell.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Reply
  22. JohnRJ08

    Romney winning in these primaries for one reason and one reason only, and it is NOT because anything has changed in the Republican Party. Hard-line conservatives who have been upset for the last 3 years that a black man is sitting in the Oval Office has driven them to vote for the candidate which they think has the best chance of beating Obama. That's it, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with an epiphany about the economy or what needs to be done to get it growing again. What we're seeing here is more expression of rage at President Obama, to the point that a man who stands for virtually nothing could be the GOP nominee.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  23. samuel banda

    Americans are looking for jobs right now. Zakaria, you as an American should be looking at issues with two lens and not one.At the moment you think Obama is the right person to create the jobs Americans desperately need. And you keep on advising the president who is unable to create jobs. Is it not time that you advised the Republicans how they can create the jobs for Americans? Obama was pressured to decline the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada that would have created many jobs for Americans.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • FLIndependent

      President Obama has not declined the Keystone Pipeline – it has been put on hold until further studies on safety are completed. Besides, this is not the end all to our job problem. What can be done right now is what the President wants to do – that is work on our infrastructure which is in desperate need of attention, but who is stopping that??

      January 13, 2012 at 9:01 am | Reply
  24. Anon

    Romney's real problem, and the media's problem for that matter, is that Ron Paul is near tied with Romney when it comes to their ability to defeat Obama in November. All three are about neck and neck and the establishment and the media HATE it because Paul would actually fix things. Don't take my word for it though. How about Dana Bash's comments on CNN, "...worried like I am that Ron Paul could be the nominee." Ohhhh, the big secret is that we are being lied to by our media. Go watch BBC, RT, Al Jazeera, NHK, French news, CBC, or any other international news and you'll see them reading from the same polls, the same exit polls, our media does. The only difference is they show and talk about how Ron Paul is the people's favorite and of ALL the GOP candidates, has the best chance of beating Obama. Problems is our media and government would rather ride the gravy train until this country is destroyed rather than suck it up and fix some things.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  25. dean

    Romney's real problem is himself. He has foot in mouth disease. Making comments like he likes to be able to fire people and corporations are people.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  26. JOE

    Why would anyone believe a Republican? They cling to guns and religion and shoot their own citizens in the back for personal gain and gratification. They divide America, spread their bigotry, racism and hate then they run off to their private island in some remote area of the world, drink alot, get laid and laugh their tales off at we foolish Americans who keep voting for them. Again, just ask Dick Cheyney. While our kids are still dying in Afghanistan ten years later, he says he has no regrets whatsoever while his love ones are living life to the fullest. And I'm sure he and GBW and Donald Rumsfeld are somewhere playing gulf right now or perhaps raping some minor. Its time the dumb and complacent American people wake to hell up, put their prejudices aside and campaign and vote for politicians who really care about their welfare and their children welfare. Or perhaps you people would eventually wake to hell up when these politicians outrageous actions hit home and take away one of you love ones. Peopel its time to wake to hell up.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
    • Larry in Houston

      don't know about shooting their own people in the back -but I definitely Know some Republicans that Actually saw their Own Mother along side of the highway, in her own car, with a flat tire, after finding out that it was in fact their own mother, they didn't even stop to get out to help her. can you imagine that ? I guess they were hopefully waiting on a Democrat to help her ?? really doesn't make any sense to me, that they feel that way. pitiful.

      January 13, 2012 at 1:19 am | Reply
  27. mario

    Romney's problem is his brain,,,,,empty

    January 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  28. scottf

    Mr. Zakaria has identified exactly what every middle class American has known for the past 15 years. There is a reason why citizen unrest in all countries is happening. We are all tired of the 1% controlling the rest of us, the " unclean" masses.
    If you are a Republican stop voting against your own best interests. If you are a Democrat help all of us get money and bought and paid for politicians out of our political system.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
    • sonny chapman

      Yes, but the Dems. are servants of Satan & want to turn America into wusses. Wouldn't you rather be a Proud Corporate Serf than using Govt. to even the playing field?

      January 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  29. sonny chapman

    "Deregulation & Tax Cuts" are the Repub. answer to every economic problem in America." Fight 'em over There Instead of Over Here" is the Repub. answer to every foreign policy problem facing America. And both policies fit on bumper stickers.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  30. Jim Dollinger

    Romney's biggest problem is a Texas Doctor named Ron.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Reply
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