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.

Buy episodes of CNN GPS online through iTunes.

soundoff (641 Responses)
  1. Winston

    I don't believe Romney can make a better fiscal policy and eventually a job creating environment if he gets elected. For an example, Romney emphased upon building more huge Navy ships to generate the job on the back of taxpayers $$$, indicating he will go the same way as Bush did before, i.e. starting another abroad war to stimulating the economy at home.

    I am not anti-military and I am also for strong defence policy, but we don't have a strong enemy that we have to spend a quater of our fed budget annually to deal with. We should spend the real dollars on the next generation of defence systems' R&D utilizing the hi-tech, but should not manufacture the out-dated weaponries, unwanted bombers, jets and ships at all. I know our defence industries need contracts to survive and they have a huge lobby on hill. Our president and congress can offer them the demostic contracts to build the new hospitals, unversities, power plants with renewable nature sources, and smart power transport lines and grids, large scale of water reservation systems, super high ways of internets with machnism of defence against cyber terrorism. All those may only cost 1/10 of our current defence budget to do annually. Obama and GOP politicians should do the right things for this country.

    January 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  2. WyoWind

    Zakaria absolutely hit nail on the head with this article.

    As someone who has lost job due to outsourcing, I fully understand the gravity of the challenge. America not being able to compete and create jobs in the world economy IS the story. Most of the responders on this list fail to even comprehend this core issue.

    Too often all we hear from our politician is that all we need is a series of good tax cuts. Our dreams will come true. We have had it easy and we have believed our own self-congratulatory marketing.

    We really need to wake up. Sadly, competing in the world economy takes real work and sacrifice, not some quick-fix tax cut.

    Good article!

    January 15, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Reply
    • Nadim F. Moussa

      I agree that Romney's mission at Bain was "How To Make Money" and NOT "How To Create Great Jobs in the USA for Americans! Only a national policy totally dedicated to "GROWTH" ... will new, high paying jobs be created and will expand the middle class population to earn more and contribute more to the economy. A bit of Obama's ideas, a bit of Ron Paul's courageous and far sighted ideas, and a lot from the "Creative Brain Trust" of the USA can make this possible. I like Jack Welsh's proposed strategy: 5% annual growth and 5% unemployment! Just like Jack Kennedy set a goal to land on the moon some years ago,, it is time to set a national goal of 5% and 5%!! Key government policies, major corporate strategy, a new national Energy policy and total revision of our sad foreign policy need to be focused on the " GROWTH" of our economy and the long term stability of this country. A leader with this vision and mission is the one that I will vote for.

      January 15, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Reply
      • arapikos

        I do agree with you–But, what do you see or know in factual terms the achievements of the Obama Administration toward your diatribe of issues? Or for that matter the lack of

        January 16, 2012 at 2:54 am |
  3. Mike_other

    Ron Paul is the only President who will take the Oath of Office seriously.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Reply
  4. Greg Autry

    We can't create any jobs in the "“tradable sector" not because we don't innovate and have great ideas to sell, but because we let China steal all our intellectual property or let them buy off our firms with illegal trade advantages like export subsidies and currency manipulation so the jobs that should come from innovation go to Shenzhen. Romney understand this. Fareed does not because he's been leading our naive march right over the cliff.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Reply
  5. SkyKing

    Let's make Barack Obama a twe-term president. Not perfect, but far superior to any Republican except maybe Huntsman, who is dropping out.

    January 15, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  6. arapikos

    Silly comments-show me a few facts or are we so poorly educated that we cannot determine fact from fiction. Check out the last three years of Obama's administration as compared to the Bush's administration 8 years. I see a marked and clear difference of the financial, political and social trends in favor of the American Citizens from the Obama Administration. The most I get from the Bush's administration is, well.... we all know what. Makes a lot of difference on the direction the vane is pointing as we head into the abyss of 2012.

    January 16, 2012 at 2:50 am | Reply
  7. Willie12345

    Why isn't there a disclosure statement with every article written by Fareed ? He is a hired consultant for the Obama administration. As a consultant for the WH, he has a potential issue with loyalty. This is not a effort to discredit him, only a desire that full disclosure take place.

    January 16, 2012 at 8:25 am | Reply
    • DC Insider

      75% of CNN is on the PObama payroll directly or indirectly

      January 16, 2012 at 10:00 am | Reply
  8. DC Insider

    Zakaria has obviously officiallty joined Obama's relection campaign operating within CNN – apparently he was called into CNN's executive meeting on campaign strategy and told to start hitting the GOP frontrunners, and take aim at Romney

    CNN should put a POSTSCRIPT after everything on their web site wihich states " I am Barack Obama and I approve this message"

    CNN = Certainly Not News

    January 16, 2012 at 9:59 am | Reply
  9. rightospeak

    When Romney ran in MA for a governor"s office, his opponent, a woman as I remember, was a total zero and I could not believe that the Democrats in MA were that stupid. The campain was a joke and he easily won. Romney thinks and his backers in the Republican Party that he may do the same with Obama. As I see it , Romney is no match for Obama-Mitt is not smart enough, not even in the same class. Ron Paul is the only one that can beat Obama with SUBSTANCE and his message. The media has been trying to destroy Ron Paul . I hope that the next debate is not foolishly biased like the last one-it makes mockery out of our "democracy ". So, Romney's real problem is Ron Paul and Mitt is no match with his b.s. and loads of money. People can see that Romney is more of the same 1% agenda we had for years.

    January 16, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply
    • desert voice (troubledgoodangel or Nathanael or Bohdan or Voiceinthedesert)

      Right and wrong! Romney is dangerous to Christianity ... but Ron Paul, as libertarian, is even more so! The conclusion is: we need a Gingrich-Santorum ticket, or else Santorum-Bachmann! The third choice would be Gingrich-Bachmann ticket, although I fear that the two wouldn't get along.

      January 17, 2012 at 5:53 am | Reply
  10. greg

    His problem is his 1% agenda.

    January 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  11. gary

    COLBERT 2012!!

    January 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  12. Celeste

    I am a mormon and I like Ron Paul. I also like Romney becuase I think he has the skills to help our economy. I am shocked at how some of you have insulted the Mormon religion.

    January 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • desert voice (troubledgoodangel or Nathanael or Bohdan or Voiceinthedesert)

      You hit the nail of your "problem" in the head. Mormons and libertarians, as enemies of traditional Christianity, will get along for the sake of hurting Christians!

      January 17, 2012 at 5:56 am | Reply
    • desert voice (troubledgoodangel or Nathanael or Bohdan or Voiceinthedesert)

      Celeste, I hope that you do not blame me for "insulting your religion." There was never a greater insult to Christianity, sort of the Crucifiction, that the Mormon "rewriting of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Talk about your "religion!

      January 17, 2012 at 5:58 am | Reply
  13. Winston

    Obama continues to let our American soldiers patrol daily along the same routes full of IED in Afganistan. It is sane to all of us at home to see so many terribly wounded soldiers coming home. That is why the congress should declare a war status prior to going into war with anyone or states and let military generals decide what should take to eliminate the enemies by anymeans ( including Nukes) to minimize our casualties first. We should never fight so-called political-correct war like this ever. It is senseless to let our children die and wound as we see last decades.

    January 16, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Reply
  14. lance

    COLBERT 2012!!!!

    January 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  15. chris

    I agree I would definitely vote for Stephen Colbert rather than any of these GOP candidates.

    January 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  16. desert voice (troubledgoodangel or Nathanael or Bohdan or Voiceinthedesert)

    Mormons and jobs don't mix. that's the crux of Mitt Romney's problem. A President that outsorces American jobs to China in order to maximize own profit does not belong in the White House!

    January 17, 2012 at 5:49 am | Reply
  17. glen

    There is an interesting book out called "the Real Romney" by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman. It gives insight into Mitt Romney's family life, governorship of Massachusetts and at Bain.

    January 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  18. jay

    Mitt "multimillionaire" Romney pays 15% in taxes when people making less pay more. And was payed 374,327 in speaker fees.

    January 17, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Reply
    • AmesIA

      By his estimation $374,327 "Isn't much". Hey Mitt – Double check with your campaign manager how far the market research consultant said you were supposed to roll up the sleeves on your shirt to connect with the common man to make up for that one!

      January 18, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  19. Irwin Fletcher

    Getting to the root of the problem and closing off the leak of Government spending is the only to stabilize our economy "for good" not just throwing out another stimulus package that sends us more into debt. If you have cracks in your house walls you don't just plaster over them you fix your foundation. Ron Paul is the only viable candidate that speaks of getting to the root of the problem which auditing and controlling the Federal Reserve. Any one that lets ridiculous party names like Republican or Democrat get in the way of seeing that should reevaluate the prospective.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply
  20. Maria

    Romney is a fake, the solution simple -Obama 2012

    January 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Reply
  21. Reggie from LA

    Romney's real problem is attention deficit. One of the richest men in the world, and certainly in America. The presidency for him is a narcissistic prize. It will make him a king. He wants to be highly regarded. He has been a robber baron who's now bored with that concept. He needs you pawns to love him, and just like he did with those bankrupted companies, he will make YOU part of the calculus. You voted for him, but he'll celebrate with the wealthiest of us and forget you. I've seen him in the debates. He is not worthy of the respect he's managed to purchase and deceive from you. He is the vulture that the candidates YOU USED TO SUPPORT (remember?) say he is. He hasn't changed. "JUST BEAT OBAMA!!" you cry, never worrying about what comes after. Like a football game. A return to the old status quo? It was deteriorating. Rich getting richer, but not you. Rather pathetic, really to know such ignorance and hate abound.

    January 19, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Reply
  22. Ruby

    I'm not an American, so trash me if you will, BUT I think you'all expected way too much from one individual, and are now sadly disappointed. Perhaps a different perspective, a realistic look at history and reflect as Mr. Zakaria notes "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." I'm not sure how Mr. Obama can lead when he can't even really be heard. The current situation is difficult to watch and I'm afraid to look into Boehner's eyes.

    January 19, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Reply
  23. lance

    Romney's problem is he has a lot of skeletons in his tax closet in the Cayman Islands and at Bain.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Reply
  24. jason

    The real problem for Willard is tax evasion.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  25. dan

    It's about time he will release his tax returns on Tuesday.

    January 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Reply
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