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. chris

    Mormonism is a polytheistic religion. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all monotheistic religions. The news media is licking it's lips than Romney will be the Republican pick because it's going to embarrass the Republican party FOREVER with the pagan beliefs of the Mormons which we're blessing.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:38 am | Reply
    • Leif

      How is Mormonism polytheistic? And isn't it interesting that the two most rational GOP candidates are Mormons?
      I like Romney, and I'm a Democrat.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:51 am | Reply
  2. MK54

    Since Romney has been unwilling to stake out firmly held convictions, we must judge him by his actions. Bain was more than 15 years ago. What has he been doing lately? Applying hairspray and talking out of both sides of his mouth? Oh yeah, he's running for President.....and we all envy his wealth and firmly held hair.

    January 13, 2012 at 7:24 am | Reply
  3. TJeff1776

    Those faulting Mormonism because of its doctrines are truly stupid people. SO its not unnatural to say they simply "miss the point". Mitts unpardonable sin IS he lacks feeling the pain of his lessor fortunate citizens. Actually its inexcuseable judging from his past training in life. Mitt uses the word "envy" to describe a fiscal condition in America
    thats obviously OUT OF BALANCE and extremely oppressive. If these conditions continue, its going to cause a revolution in this country that will burn his eyebrows from his hansome face.

    January 13, 2012 at 7:56 am | Reply
  4. BigAl

    rich, mormon and from mass, enough for me

    January 13, 2012 at 8:16 am | Reply
    • Smako

      So, Newt is a rich fornicator, is he your choice? They are all rich, there isn't a poor or middle class candidate even in the running, mostly because they can't be bought as easily as someone who has more money than they know what to do with.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  5. ObamaClinton2012

    That expression he wears on his face in that picture will be the exact same one he will lbe wearinf after his first debate with Obama. Its called the OH SH%T look. haha

    January 13, 2012 at 9:17 am | Reply
  6. kel

    Romney looks like the type of guy who would enjoy firing people.

    January 13, 2012 at 9:48 am | Reply
  7. len

    Vulture capitalist and corporate raider

    January 13, 2012 at 9:58 am | Reply
  8. emily

    Romney's main problem is he is out of touch with the middle class. He likes to get his shoes shined on tarmacs and pose with his buddies with money in his suit. The story about his poor dog on top of his car in 1983 when his kids and wife were in the car is quite disturbing. I can't fathom putting my cat or dog on top of the roof of my car under any conditions I would consider it animal abuse.

    January 13, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  9. SimpleMan511

    No one likes the idea of a Mormon prez. But if one were to consider Mitt Romeny fairly, it ought to be about what he stands for. The last election, voters were concerned about the economy, immigration, ending the war. In the upcoming election, it is still about job creation, the economy, only with the economy now we are post-bailout mode, we have not reached banking reform legislation that helps the economy grow and every republican knows why!!!!
    I did not agree with Obama in the last few years, I figured he had the authority to do more for the economy, especially small businesses. So I removed myself from the Dem party and plan on voting for Ron Paul. I would consider revoting for Obama if he made more sense on the economy, today our economy does not show a lot of positive growth.

    January 13, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  10. Barry G.

    If a leader is rich, it is likely that they will not be aware of, sensitive to, or be concerned about the plight of those who are less fortunate. It is more likely that rich leaders will blame the poor for being poor, to ease their conscience and feel justified.

    This has always been the case.

    Consider the Pres. Hoover and Pres. Wilson; consider J. D. Rockefeller; or even consider the Tsar and his family.

    The problem is one must be rich and have wealthy patrons (customers) and supporters to be a politician today. Good and decent people like Abraham Lincoln wouldn't stand a chance of being elected today.

    There's something terribly wrong with such a corrupt system of our government, where lobbyists have so much influence. Of course the rich won't stand for anyone changing this–nor will our politicians, who are benefitting from this cozy arrangement with the rich donors.

    Remember, in Ancient Rome there were about thirty wealth families that ran the empire, and if anyone dared to stand in their way or interfere with their plans, they risked grave consequences.

    The American people should be outraged about this and demand that changes be made!

    January 13, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
  11. Scot

    You extream right wing fools ! If you wanted a guy to beat the president you would have Jon Huntsman as your choice and you would get all the left leaning independants like me and all of the young voters that went with Obama in 2008. But nooooo you are going to do the same thing that you did in 2008 and you will lose. And all of those folks mentioned will vote him in again !

    January 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • Barry G.

      Forgive my cynicism, but I’m starting to think that it makes little, if any, difference who’s in the Executive Officer, or who’s holding which seats in the House or Senate. I’m starting to think that one side is about as bad (and corrupt) as the other.

      January 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  12. William

    If they put in Romney Obama will win the election and we are Done. Romney isn’t brilliant, he is a flopper without principal and actually no different than Obama. One is as useless as the other.

    Cut spending and cut the size of this monolithic Government, when do we measure the impacts of poor results? When America is dead? I think not, inform yourselves or live by your stand in ignorance and these results.

    January 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Reply
    • Barry G.

      If they cut the size of government, how will they be able to reward their patrons and friends with lucrative jobs and perks?

      January 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Reply
  13. Donald McLachlan

    Classic capitalism? You mean 1. buy a healthy company; 2. Over leverage it; 3. Now pay indecent dividends from the money you've borrowed to the in crowd; 4. Dump it when you've put it so deeply into hock it can't dig its way out.
    If that's healthy capitalism, it's no wonder we're in the weeds.

    Donald M

    January 13, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
    • Barry G.


      What is sad is the American people have turned a blind eye to all of this, while the rich, with the aid of our leaders (both parties), have fleeced the country.

      We the people deserve part of the blame for looking the other way.

      How does that saying go about people getting the government they deserve?

      January 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  14. Smako

    Will someone explain what a declaration of a "jobs emergency" means? Does it automatically create jobs from the dust? Will it make it affordable to bring jobs sent overseas back home? Will it bring down consumer costs so that a family actually can exist on a single income?
    It sounded like a credible analysis of the Romney campaign, but when the "jobs emergency" thing came up at the end I realized it was just another democrat posing as an objective third party. If you can't beat them, bite them, right?

    January 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  15. UtahProf

    Romney will win the Republican nomination. Ron Paul will decide to run as an independent because of his strong level of support across demographics. Ron Paul will win the general election in spite of media and "status quo" political efforts to keep it from happening. Bank on it.

    Oh, A Paul / Huntsman ticket would look very good.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Reply
    • Fred

      You ARE joking, aren't you? Have you really lstened to Ron Paul? He has a bunch of wacko ideas that even the American people won't fall for.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Reply
      • UtahProf

        Bi-partisan politics is passe and the Republicans and Democrats are a two headed snake. The American people are waking up to this fact in droves – when will you wake up?

        January 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  16. Fred

    I'm voting again for Obama, even though I've found him disappointing in some ways. But what is this crap about blaming the president for everything that goes wrong? He's not a dictator, and has had to deal with a Congress (especially the House) whose main objective is to thwart him at every turn and not let him accomplish anything. Remember Senator Mitch saying that the Republicans' main goal was to defeat Obama in 2012. Now THAT'S statesmanship.

    January 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  17. Barry G.

    Who was it that said the people get the leaders or government that they deserve?

    January 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Reply
    • UtahProf

      A lot of people have said similar things but I believe the original was Vladimir Viardo, a Russian.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Reply
      • Barry G.

        Thank you and well done, to you, Professor!

        January 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
      • JimfromBirmingham

        Alexis d'Touqueville?

        January 14, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  18. whatever

    the GOP is a bunch of clowns, vote for them & you will see where the US is going to be 4 years from now.

    January 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Reply
    • UtahProf

      In government, less is more – vote Ron Paul!

      January 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  19. T klimchuk

    The former Ceo of GE called Rommey the best canidate for president Maybe for the rich and big business he is no friend of the average man Obama is not much different he goes about it in a different way Maybe he should don a KKK outfit on the next Gop state conventions?Would that make him more appealing to the far crazy right of the party?

    January 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Reply
  20. Nathan

    None of these candidates are appealing you have Gordon Gekko=Mitt Romney, Angry Kung Fu Panda= Newt Gingrich, Howdy Doody=Rick Santorum, George W. Bush the extreme version=Rick Perry and Yoda=Ron Paul.

    January 13, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  21. lane

    Romney's problem is he thinks corporations are people and union people are stooges.

    January 13, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  22. Jim in Georgia

    Mitt's problem is that he is a republican.

    January 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  23. vin

    The GOP clown show rolls on.

    January 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  24. Barry G.

    Our leaders (both parties) seem to forget (or they never understood) that to be a good leader means to be a servant.

    It's like being a good shepherd, who puts the interest of the flock before his/her own interests.

    A good shepherd would lay down their life for the sheep; and evil shepherd would steal from the flock and run at the first sign of danger, leaving the flock to be destroyed.

    Good shepherds led the flock; evil shepherds drove the flock from the back.

    God give us good shepherds, not thieves, robbers and cowards!

    January 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  25. Harriet

    I find it interesting that Wall Street's recklessness and the lack of understanding from the Congress and Administrations of BOTH parties of how financial markets work, does not play right into Romney's strong suit. He obviously understands it because he made his living in the financial markets and a good one at that. Isn't it Congress's job to pass laws and regulations for the financial industry? So all that went on in those markets was sanctioned by the laws and regulations that Congress passed. I don't remember hearing of anyone in the financial industry going to prison for violating any law or regulation. Bernie Madoff doesn't count he committed fraud! Like it or not everything that has happened to this country and is wrong with this country was started in Washington DC. They set up the rules. Both parties are at fault no denying that. The voters are going to have to be more selective and we are going to have better people to select from. For starters-term limits, no pensions, they need to contribute to Social Security like the rest of us and their pension funds need to be rolled over into Social Security. Health care-they need to be under Obamacare if it is good enough for us it is good enough for them! I would not provide them health care at all. They could be covered under their spouses health care insurance. They CANNOT exempt themselves from the laws they pass. All books written with information learned while paid by the taxpayer those royalties should go in the public coffers.

    January 13, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Reply
    • JimfromBirmingham

      @ Harriet

      I totally agree that we should vote for the best candidate, regardless of the political party. We need to overcome the fringe left and right wings of both parties who vote straight ticket – what poor, brainwashed souls they are.

      January 14, 2012 at 8:36 am | Reply
  26. frootyme

    Romney's real problem is he is a hedge fund manager. We want him to see as last choice for president. Anyone would be better than a corporate looter who has warm relations with other corporate mafia. He will another war and make corporate heads more rich at the cost of american tax payer's dollars.

    January 13, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  27. CharlieSeattle

    This sick economy is one of the results of 300,000 million Americans buying Chinese made crap instead of Made In America goods.

    Collectively you all destroyed the businesses your forefathers created. And you spit on the Unions that fought the last 100 years to give you YOUR 40 hour weeks, Vacation, Health Care, Pensions.

    You all make me sick. Are you all so stupid and think you can do that and keep your jobs, your homes, a strong tax base and schools?

    In Kinder garden you all played musical chairs. 300,000 million Americans have been playing economic musical chairs for the last 40 years. lol, enjoy the game suckers you are all losing.

    Bad things are supposed to happen to stupid people.

    January 13, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  28. CharlieSeattle

    Ad wars focus on jobs

    "...More than half of the television ads produced by the National Republican Congressional Committee this past fall have focused on jobs."


    Will Americans vote the same Republican party back in power, backed by businesses that employ millions of illegal aliens nationwide during this ongoing recession? Yes they will.

    Will Americans vote the same Republican party back in power that made expenses tied to out sourcing American jobs tax deductable for major American Corporations? Yes they will.

    Will Americans vote the same Republican party back in power that WILL NOT mention repealing NAFTA or China's Most Favored Nation trade status? Yes they will.

    Will Americans vote the same Republican party back in power that caused the deregulation that lead us to the financial crisis? Yes they will.

    Will Americans vote the same Republican party back in power that caused the deregulation that lead us to the Bank fraud prolonging the home mortgage crisis? Yes they will.

    Will Americans vote the same Republican party back in power that WILL NOT consider repealing H1B Wavier exemptions that allow over 65,000 foreign tech workers into the US to take even more American jobs? Yes they will.

    Why you may ask?

    ...Bad things are supposed to happen to stupid people.

    January 13, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Reply
  29. CharlieSeattle

    Oh dear, what on earth does the average American have to be mad about?

    Our wonderful US Government passes NAFTA and American jobs disappear in a great sucking sound south of the border. Ross Perot was right by the way!

    US Government will not enforce existing immigration laws and secure the border. Could that be because..
    >>Democrats want illegal immigrants because they, and their now naturalized children, vote Democratic to keep the gravy train of free tax payer benefits flowing at the expense of real Americans.
    >>Republicans want illegal immigrants because their supporters want cheap labor at the expense of out of work Americans!

    US Government gives China Most Favored Nation status and China proceeds to lie, counterfeit and cheat its way to prosperity. More American jobs disappear in a great sucking sound south across the Pacific. Ross Perot was right again by the way!

    American companies cry and whine they can NOT find American Tech workers at $4.00 an hour so the US Government passes the H1B Wavier law allowing them to import Indians and others to take American high paying jobs and make their expenses to do so tax deductable!

    Bush lies to us and blows the Clinton Surplus on the Iraq war just because Saddam tied to kill his daddy! Or maybe he simply misspelled "Iran" on the attack order. Lol, like that was any stretch of the imagination!

    Oil Companies doubled their gasoline prices during the Bush years leading us to the recession.

    Republican deregulation helps WALL STREET to SCREW US ALL creating the recession!

    Republican deregulation helps BP SCREW US ALL AGAIN!!!

    ,,,\ , ("0.o") , /,,, So I ask again, why get mad?

    Bad things are supposed to happen to stupid people that re-elect their tormentors over and over again.

    Bend over and just take it.

    January 13, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Reply
  30. Alex

    Maybe Mr. Zakaria should open an economics 101 textbook and read about public spending crowding out private enterprise...

    January 14, 2012 at 4:04 am | Reply
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