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

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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. JOE

    Really want to know how you should vote in November? Well, think about what you would do the next time a Republican gets in office, drags us into another illegitimate war and then come knocking on your door for your kid to sign up to fight their war while their own kid goes off to ivy league college.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Reply
    • Larry in Houston

      10 -4

      January 13, 2012 at 1:14 am | Reply
  2. jlh

    Have all you supporters of Ron Paul actually read his publications that are socially far to the right of the KKK? He is a holocaust denier, a racist, totally anti immigration (not just illegals), etc. And Rick Santorum wants the government out of our lives everywhere except in our homes and bedrooms with a religiously conservative theocracy. I'm not happy with Obama, either, but these "conservatives" are really scary!!

    January 12, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  3. Ken

    As a Republican, I would rather vote for a democrat than a Mormon...

    January 12, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  4. Change

    The recent video circulating of US Marines urinating on dead Afghan soldiers is more reason why Americans shouldn't vote for Republicans whatsoever. That tragedy and travesty is what GWB and these same Republicans in congress allow to take place when they're in charge. A few months ago there was another video showing American soldiers in Afghanistan murdering Afghan civilians for sport and displaying body parts as keepsake. More reason why GWB and cabinet and all the Republicans in congres should all be executed.

    And sometimes I just wonder why the domestic Islamic radicals in the United States don't ever target these worthless Republican politicians and teach them a fuc*king lesson. And I just wondered why the Time Square bomber didn't bother to go to Crawford Ranch instead of targeting innocent American citizens. Perhaps if these worthless Republican politicians start being targeted they would eventually stop fuc*king up the lives of Americans and people abroad.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  5. OnlyRonPaul

    It is not in the bag CNN. There have only been TWO delegate events. Chill and let the people decide who the people want, for a change.

    January 12, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  6. judy

    Willard "Mitt" Romney is his own worst enemy with his connections to Bain Capital and his governorship at Massachusetts. I can't get over the picture of him posing with his rich wall street cronies with money in their suits and hands. He likes to fire people and thinks corporations are people. Wow ain't that rich! Bain is his pain and he is the real Gordon Gekko in the election. Greed is Good!!

    January 12, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  7. clark

    Miittens real problem is himself.

    January 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  8. carrotroot

    Mitt albatross are his days with bain capital. He was in charge of dissolving companies, and there's no way you can positively spin this

    January 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  9. Change

    This incompetent idiot is going around the country attacking President Obama on the economy and saying that too many Americans have been out of work too long and the President hasn't done anything about it. Well, Mitt Romney that is total BS. And perhaps you should explain to the American people why the Republican teabags you support in congress have voted against every jobs bill the President has introduced for three straight years. Furthermore, to ignore what the Stimulus bill has done in helping small businesses to resurface in these trying times or to ignore the fact that many existing businesses are re-hiring as a result of tax incentives is totally outrageous. To ignore the millions of jobs the Stimulus bill has saved in federal, state and local government or the quarter of a million jobs saved in our Auto industry is totally ludicrous. To ignore the fact that some Governors like Bobby Jindel has turned down much needed stimulus relief or the fact that your friend, Florida Governor Rick Scott has turned down the High-Speed Rail project and subsequently killed hundreds of much needed jobs is totally outrageous.

    And when you say to the American people how you would work with entrepreneurs to create jobs, what you incompetent idiot forgot to address is that three quarters of the 14 million unemployed have expertise in the private sector that include retail and non skilled jobs. Are these entrepreneurs going to re-open hundreds of retail stores across the country and re-hire many of these unskilled workers? Mitt Romney you're such an incompetent idiot.

    January 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Reply
    • Leopold

      Incompetent idiot? Mitt took over a filing Salt Lake OLympics and got it done on schedule and with a profit. He built Bain Capital into a billion dollar business. He took Massachussetts form a deficit to a surplus. He has a dual JD-MBA from Harvard. The real incompetent is Obama and his record shows it. Obama is gifted at making promises he can't keep and the job of President is too much for him. Oh, and he does apologize a lot to an uncaring world. However the only idiots around here are partisan democrats who want victory at any cost and refuse to moderate.

      January 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Reply
      • strikelightning

        get real! obama has helped to further destroy this country. the republicans want the white house because they think that if anybody is going to destroy the united states, it should be them. we, the american people are screwed either way. other than getting our vote, it's not about us.

        January 17, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • strikelightning

      see how All the candidates are playing dumb when it comes to creating jobs? with 14 million americans out of work, there is no possible way to create 14 million jobs. the government COULD man up, hire a several hundred thousand new immigration agents whose job it would be to help round up and deport the 14 million illegal immigrants in america sucking our country dry. then there would be 14 million jobs available like magic. the recession would be history in less than a year. the president willing to do that would end up a hero of the american people. name one federal law on the books not being enforced that the average american can benefit from? not a one.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:24 am | Reply
  10. al

    Romney's problem is he is the face of the 1% and wallstreet. Romney=Gordon Gekko.

    January 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  11. randall

    Bain is his pain.

    January 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  12. Kevin B

    LOL, address the problem "centrally"? Why not create a five year central plan like the communists? This is America, and we don't need the Central planning dem party to lead us like sheep and feed us their table scraps.

    January 12, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
    • m

      No, you prefer the table scraps fed to you by the GOP = GREEDY OPPOSITION PARTY.

      January 13, 2012 at 1:11 am | Reply
  13. libsuck

    Zakaria is just a stupid I n d i a n and try's to act like he knows what he is talking about...send him back to India we don't want or ned the maggot.

    January 12, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Reply
  14. Vistarian

    Someone wrote to me that the crowd you see in Romney's rally are mostly Mormons,

    " You can tell?"

    "Of course, I can see they are wearing their temple undergarments "

    January 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  15. Change

    Why do they wear temple undergarments? Is that to gauge how many women they screwed in a twenty four hour period?

    January 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
    • chris

      Note that in the Mormon religion, "revelation" trumps their books which is why there was polygamy and could be again. This is also why they banned black men from being in the leadership until the 1970s and why they taught that Adam is god of the earth. They believe Jesus and God are separate gods and that there are many gods. They (LDS) believe you can become a god after you die. They believe God started out as a man and then became God.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:47 am | Reply
      • Smako

        If you paid any attention to what the Bible says, these things would make sense to you. The mormons can make a convincing argument when you get them one on one. Most of their answers come directly from the King James version of the Bible. That is the translated version of the Bible that the translator was killed by the Catholics for because he made it so the common man could understand.
        Now if you can get past the "no coffee, no liquor, and nothing but scripture and sacrament on sunday the rest is easy.

        January 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  16. jade

    Willard's problem is he is a corporate vulture.

    January 12, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  17. Tony

    Mittens doesn't like all the attention on Bain capital. That was his capitalist venture and he was rich enough to pull it off, so the rest of the world can envy Mittens.

    January 12, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Reply
  18. Tony

    The guy aint right in the head. Anyone who believes Joseph Smith Jr. found a some gold tablets in the new world is a complete idiot.

    January 12, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  19. Jack Keller

    Mitt Romney has a serious Mormon problem that isn't going away here's just one example of that

    January 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Reply
  20. SPQR

    Romney is the perfect Dummy.

    January 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Reply
  21. Larry in Houston

    You are correct, Mr. Zakaria – the GOP'ers need to back him- instead of continued fighting within -it's not good for the party -nor it's good for the country -Thank You for your talking points – I hope more people will read your article.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:06 am | Reply
  22. m

    What people are discovering is the more they come to know Romney, the less the like him. It's like peeling an onion which only brings tears to the eyes.

    Why did Romney only serve one term as governor? He bailed to run for president. Rather strange trying to convince voters he is not a career politician. He's been running for office most of his life and fortunately so far has only been successful once. Lets hope that he loses this time as well.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:08 am | Reply
  23. Craig

    Republicans care about the middle-class? What planet are you from Mr. Zakaria? The Republicans only pay attention to the middle class every four years. Once the election is over the middle class becomes invisible again to them. We don't put enough money in their pockets to warrant any attention. It doesn't matter who they nominate. The way the Republicans are attacking each other they won't be able to hide any of their prior bad acts. If the electorate uses their brain in November the Republican nominee should finish behind the Tooth Fairy in the election.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:17 am | Reply
  24. m

    The GOP = GREEDY OPPOSITION PARTY's nominating process has already turned in to mud-slinging, name calling dirty campaign. No one is really talking about solutions or not anyone that has a chance at the nomination. These people are afraid to run on their records, have no idea how to solve any problems or the capacity to work together. So what do they do? They revert the standard practice of demonizing the opponent. Great way to select the leader of the free world.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:31 am | Reply
  25. RedState

    The more the real Romney cuts loose, the more loathsome, cynical, and out of touch he seems. That is Mitt Romney's real problem. That beneath the plaid and the mild manner, lies the heart of cynical career politician, however mediocre, and all values will fall in the pursuit of his "ascension". If you have someone who can only thrive in a "risk management" situation, it is expected in the absence of which, there will be impetus to create one. Romney people want jobs, medicare, pensions, a home, good schools for their kids. People do not want another war.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:36 am | Reply
  26. tonyl

    Romney's real problem is Romney himself. He is a fake. He has changed all his positions. He has no core of beliefs. He will say anything to get elected. His record is moderate but he is saying all lies right now to the right wing Christians fanatics and tea baggers to win the primary. He will change again when the general election starts to show his moderate side to win the independents. But even the right wing now knows his true colors. Gingrich will not go down easy without a bloody fight which will actually hurt the GOP. The right wing GOP supporters may have some problems voting for him in the general election. To them there is no difference between Romney and Obama. Romney has now also become a Mexican to win the Hispanic votes. How cool is that? LOL.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:16 am | Reply
    • chris

      I've been a Republican all my life, but would rather see Obama win again than Mitt Romney.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:43 am | Reply
  27. Michael

    Romney is soooo out of touch. I consider myself a conservative Republican, but I'll vote for Obama over Romney.
    It is not "envy" or "class warfare". In the last 10 years since Bush's stupid tax cuts it is a simple fact – the rich have gotten richer. The middle class is slipping backward. I'm working harder and harder and getting further behind. The only way out of this is to raise the taxes on the wealthy. Let Bush's unpaid for tax cuts expire and then add on another tax bracket at the $1million level for good measure.
    Please fellow Republicans, can we unite on one candidate who can beat Obama – Jon Huntsman?
    Gingrich has too much baggage.
    Romney is out of touch.
    Paul is too old and too wacko (although I agree with his principles, a leader can't be so cavalier).
    Perry should follow Bachman out the door.
    Santorum is too conservative on social issues to win the general election.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:19 am | Reply
    • chris

      Michael, I agree with you. I have been a conservative Republican all my life and active in the party, but I will never vote for Romney. The Mormon religion is so far out of the realm of normal that I really feel like I'm in the twilight zone. This primary season is a freak show, but it's only a taste of the crazy we'll get once the beliefs of Mormons become known AFTER Mitt gets the nod.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:42 am | Reply
      • Smako

        You want to know what the beliefs of the Mormons are? Ask them, or, if you are too fat to get up the stairs and out of your grandmothers basement, you could go to

        January 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  28. tonyl


    January 13, 2012 at 2:24 am | Reply
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