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. Change

    If these republican candidates think President Obama has improved our trust and credibility abroad and stabilized our economic crisis at home for them to get back in the White House and fu*ck things up all over again, they better think twice. You people had your chance for eight years and all you brought us were pain, heartache and sorrow. Now you are asking for another chance to bury us alive. Hell no, it ain't goanna happen. Not in November and I hope not in a hundred f-ing years.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  2. George Shengelaia

    January 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  3. Edwin

    Rpmney's biggest problem: he does not excite the GOP base... at all.

    They keep searching for somebody - anybody - else. He will ultimately win the candidacy, not by his own merits, but as a default - no one else can really compete. The democrats had someone like that in 2004 - John Kerry. I think Mitt Romney will fair just about as well in 2012 as Kerry did in 2004, and for much the same reason: being electable is not enough to actually get you elected.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Reply
    • King Kevin

      Except the energetic commitment to make Obama a one term president is far stronger than it was to unseat Kerry. The only way that the Democrats could defeat George W. Bush was to run against him in 2008....when he wasn't a candidate.

      Wishful thinking by the rest of you, but Obama is history and will be the victim of one of the biggest landslides. I was going to run my dog against Obama when I saw that he would win any match up against Obama, Reid, or Pelosi.

      January 11, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Reply
      • Youre-Dillusional

        Actually despite what a pathetic default candidate Kerry was, he almost did beat Bush. You're claim that the effort to unseat Obama is stronger has no evidence either, since his approval rating hovers in the mid-to-upper 40s currently. I know it seems that way because the tea-party and Fox News crowd shouts so loud, but you are crazy if you think that demographic represents a landslide majority. Since some third party candidate(s) are sure to round up 3-5 % of the vote, that means even if the economy doesn't improve anymore by November, all Obama needs is about 5% to be unsatisfied enough with the alternative the GOP has settled on to either vote for him or stay home. answer to the expected reply, no I'm not an Obama homer, I didn't vote for him last time and am wishing (without much hope) that the republican party would nominate a reasonable, credible grown-up instead of Mitt or Newt

        January 11, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
      • FLIndependent

        @King Kevin – Your claim that the enthusiasm wasn't there to unseat Bush in 2004 is totally without merit. There was a HUGE fraction that were so upset with Bush started the illegal Iraq war that they wanted him out! Also, if it weren't for the guy who oversaw the elections in Ohio and promised he would deliver a win for Bush, Kerry would have won and most likely did but for some reason Kerry chose to give in easily which was definitely the country's loss. This time around the Obama supporters are the silent'll see!

        January 12, 2012 at 11:19 am |
      • Peter

        King Kevin (modest, aren't we?): Anyone who calls the elections–one way or another– a year out is living in a dream world. ANYTHING can happen between now and then.

        January 12, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  4. crosswave

    FAREED ZAKARIA'S BASIC PROBLEM – foreign born journalist with NO credibility.. big pen, big mouth, on any topic - he thinks he's the last word & knows the USA .. NOT .. HE IS AN ELITIST WITH ZERO CONNECTION EXCEPT TO THE WELFARE STATE & PREZ OBOZO LOVERS.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Reply
    • King Kevin

      And, he's still on Obama's payroll

      January 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Reply
    • Das Shua

      ^This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Being an adviser for the Cabinet of the President does not mean he is completely biased in his other pursuits. Also, this "elitist" and "foreign-born journalist" knows a lot more about America than any other pundit on TV and he displays a very fair view of the world. So, excuse me for liking an elitist, but it's better than trusting Plumber Joe for my news.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
    • Peter

      "Foreign born journalist" so what right does he have to comment on the US scene?

      Hmmm. Rupert Murdoch owns Fox and is "foreign born" and, unlike Zakaria, does not even have his primary residence in the USA. I am sure that you are just as outraged about Murdoch, eh?

      January 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  5. fsmgroupie

    Romney's real problem? His belief in the magical underwear!

    January 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Reply
    • Youre-Dillusional

      You're an idiot and a bigot...and I say that as someone who doesn't even like Mitt.

      January 11, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Reply
      • DR. Knowitall

        magic Underwear = bigot ?

        January 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  6. Jeff Fessenden*

    Thx, Fareed. Your words define so well. Thanks for the service you provide for us. Inspirational. Bless you and yours.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Reply
  7. Change

    What I find outrageous is the Republicans created the economic crisis but they have nontheless blame President Obama for the economic woes he inherited. And when the unemployment rate started to decline, they failed to give credit where credit is due. And that stimulus package that has saved millions of American jobs and given companies tax incentives to keep or re-hire employees, the GOP seem to have a problem with that too. O' wait, and then there's the heated issue the healthcare ligislation the rightwing leadership and their base accused President Obama of passing with a mandate forcing Americans to buy health insurance. I have a question... Would you rather be forced to fight and die in an illegitimate Middle Eastern war or be force to get healthcare that is going to save the lives of you and your love ones? And for those of you who already have coverage, wouldn't it be a plus to be able to have affordable prescription drugs. And don't you think a healthier America is simply a stronger America? O' my bad, all these policies are un-American policies becasue they are passed by a black President. Now i got it!

    January 11, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Reply
    • FLIndependent

      Bravo – you are so on target!

      January 12, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
  8. Heywood J Blowmie

    Mitt Romney is vacuous and without ethics. He is a panderer and is trying to buy the American Presidency. Neither his ethics nor his personality reasonate with the American public. He will be slaughtered in a Presidential Election running against Barack Obama. I suspect that is why one side of the media's aisle finds him so popular.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Reply
  9. TPyle

    >> 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.

    Made me count 'em... Really, Nixon was 5 out of 6 (20 of 24 years) 1952-1972, not on ticket in 1964.
    A Bush or a Dole was on every ticket 1976 – 2008, so let's call that 32 years straight.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Reply
    • FLIndependent

      Yes, and let's sum that up – Bush I was a one-termer, Nixon was a disgraced President, Bush II (well need I say more!). Get over yourselves Republicans!

      January 12, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
  10. Manny

    Just media entertainment for the wackos posting anti Romney comments. Apparently they don't have anything better to do besides praising Comrade Obama's policies and Mr. Zakaria's articles. This gentleman is well known for his liberal points of view and his a–kissing to Muslims.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  11. Randall Rodd

    I am amazed that no one is making a big deal of the fact that Romney's wife has may be in remission, but if it gets worse, she will need a lot of attention. I have a good friend who has had it for 5 years and she is in need of 24/7 care already. I know it is different in each person, but if the rigors of the WH kick in, we could have a president taking more care of his wife than the country.

    Equally interesting is that Huntsman is a Mormon too, or at least from a Mormon family with ties to the LDS. Google him and look at his family's background and his involvment in the Mormon church.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  12. Leroy

    If Rummy should get into office, he'll name Rick Perry as Defense Secretary and redeploy the troops back to Iraq in order to move the equipment left behind into Iran.

    January 11, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Reply
  13. John

    I can't help thinking Mitt Romney is the Republicans' John Kerry. I was for it before I was against it. You can list the topics; abortion, Romney/Obamacare, etc. If I was a Democrat I'd be rubbing my hands with glee.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Reply
  14. Code Too

    On that basis Barbour was a shoo-in until he did something really stupid, and now he has. I just love watching this train wreck.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Reply
  15. yeswecanruin

    Obama told a fairy tale to get elected as president, He told everything will be solved at the touch of a magic wand. But other than copying excatly what Bush did his one acheivement is zero. The only thing he contributed was to destabilise the middle east. The dictators were thrown out and fanatics/american enemies were sworn in. He rebuked at bush calling iran the axis of evil, now he is lost what to do with nuclear Iran.The health care circus has not begun. When the mandatory provisions are thrown in the states would go bankrupt. The health insurance with hefty payment by the customers will turn out into a emergency coverage with customers paying out 60-70% cost, in addition to health care insurance premiums. Untrained people will be treating the sick and even cars will have better mechanic.There will be emergence of health care system for the elite where people with money will be treated by the real doctors. So the elite ruling class excluded from obama care and the rich will have the real care.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
    • FLIndependent

      Obama didn't tell a fairy tale...Fox News & his detractors told the fairy tale. President Obama fulfilled many of his promises and also said that turning the ship around will most likely take two terms for him and possibly more with another president. The Bush/Cheney debaucle was so deep that NO ONE can correct it within 3 years. This President is doing all that he can with a Congress that has no intention of helping. As far as healthcare, the law passed by Obama isn't going to make things worse, things were already bad. We are already at a point where only the rich can afford the care that they need. We have to wait and see if the new law will make a long term impact which I believe it wil. It may need some tweaking but it certainly doesn't need to be repealed...that is just nonsense!

      January 12, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
    • memyself

      ... with that kind of a crystal ball, you have probably made millions in the stock market, and no-doubt have no worry for the future at all

      January 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Reply
    • Erasmus5

      Where do get such drivel? What an embarrassingly ignorant post.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Reply
    • Not a Lawyer

      Always read the fine print !
      No one took the time to examine who BO really was. It is a shame that so many blindly accept him at face value while they tear down every other candidate.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
    • Not a Lawyer

      Speaking of Health care, those who are required to purchase a policy, but cannot afford enough coverage and end up with a minimal coverage policy (think SafeAuto). What happens to them when their Insurance won't cover the bill ? Can you say death panels ?

      January 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  16. Change

    Since 9/11 have you people been to a motor vehicle or airport and see how your lives and your families lives have change? The six points to re-new your driver's license or the long lines at the airports and alll the intrusion into your person and belongings. Yet these rightwing nutjobs keep accusing President Obama of messing up this country just for trying to clean up the mess. How pathetic! And since our illegitimate Iraqi war, don't you and your family members feel more vulnerable to terrorist attacks when you travel abroad? Well, you can blame that on the Republicans too.

    Perhaps many of you live in very remote arears of America. But everyday I wake up and look across the Hudson River, the New York sky line looks different simply because GWB and the very same republicans in office failed to defend and protect America from the 9/11 attacks. But its no surprise they didn't celebrate with everyday Americans on that historic night when we sang patriotic songs and wave Ole Glory over the news that OBL was killed and no longer a threat to our freedom and democracy. Yet you people still want to vote for these inept and misguided politicians? America its time to wake up!

    January 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
  17. notangry

    Even at the eight years of obama if it happens as hoped by zakaria , the republicans/bush can continue to be blamed as if obama administration never happened.Wish could blame somebody else and not take any responsibility

    January 11, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  18. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    I must say that there was nothing at all new in this so-called analysis. Everything said here has been parroted a zillion times already!

    January 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Reply
  19. Melissa

    Ah, CNN, already pulling punches to desperately keep their fallen-from-grace hero from slipping further in public opinion. Zakaria is a smart guy, and I don't mind opinion pieces, but CNN should at least try to strive for objectivity. Provide writers to articulate counter-arguments.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Reply
    • DR. Knowitall

      writer to counter arguments – Sorry there is no such animal at CNN !

      January 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  20. Melissa

    I used to consider Zakaria something of a centrist, but it's become increasingly obvious that whatever his overall political perspective might be, he's got a strong investment and personal liking for President Obama and is decidedly left-leaning when it comes to American foreign policy. He had a recent piece downplaying the threats of a nuclear Iran, making statements such as "is it worth going to war just to prevent a rogue state from having a few rusty nukes"? (paraphrased). Further pieces this fall on Iran reveal more apologism and more cautioning against any kind of military confrontation. Being opinionated doesn't necessarily equal having what we'd call a stringent "agenda," but let's not pretend he's writing from an objective viewpoint here. Many, many Americans have a very different and decidedly not isolationist worldview, and by presenting only Zakaria's point of view on such crucial issues without providing any kind of real dissenting intellectual commentary is irresponsible. CNN has been able, in many ways, to elevate itself above the blatant partisanship of MSNBC and Fox, and hopefully they'll realign their priorities before this election and in light of recent events. I am still interested in Zakaria's perspectives and intelligence, but think he might be better suited to a more honestly left-leaning publication instead of being a sort of unchallenged liberal pundit for CNN. Come on, CNN–prove to Fox that you're above this level of criticism and provide a more balanced approach that better represents your viewership.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Reply
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      Mellissa: You sound very objective & rational. But, I am not sure if you have studied Mr. Fareed Zakaria closely.

      I have reviewe most of his writings and commented extensively. Here's my take.

      Mr. Zakaria has this uncanny "DESIRE" to stay in the limelight with all these "PROPHESIES" by "merely" stating the obvious by sewing & weaving already published facts....something that's not much of a no brainer to majority of informed Americans!

      He does this typically by making broad, sweeping statements often times encompassing both sides of the aisle, leaving him just enough room to wriggle out in the event of an unsavory situation! Often times on issues closest to his heart, including support for Muslim issues all over the world, anti-Semitism, or America bashing we see him unleashing his passion with a variety of cherry-picked data, half-truths to further his cause.

      Having said that, Mr. Zakaria is on this crusade in his quest to “capture” a coveted, influential public position such as the US Secretary of State to further his overarching Islamic, anti-Semite agenda. No wonder there was web site that propped out of nowhere during the Presidential campaign in 2004 appealing to the future President to appoint Mr. Zakaria as the next US Secretary of State. His efforts at commenting/ prophesizing on everything under the sun (many of which he knows precious little about!) is a balancing act at depicting his overall concern for world/US affairs in fulfillment of his coveted Islamic, anti-Semite agenda!


      January 11, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Reply
    • burrke

      Understand THIS that No foreigner will EVER come to America and be conservative unless one that is out of his mind. What makes people come to this great country is Liberalism. Liberalism alone has made this country great. How many people come here because Arizona or Texas??? People come to America because of New York city and Los Angeles.

      Conservatism is am amoral philosophy that tends to emphasize the rule of the few, the haves over the have nots which are the masses. Conservatism is causing havoc all over the world. Those who call themselves conservatives are either RICH, IGNORANT or simply have been worked on by the propagandistic media.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  21. Josh

    You can outsource construction jobs, btw... you just have to import the cheap laborers.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  22. ytuque

    Maybe Romney owes his success to his magic Mormon underwear?

    January 11, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Reply
  23. 737ren

    Mitt Romney = A handsome version of Carl Icahn or Michael Milken.

    January 11, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Reply
  24. Ice-B

    Romney's real problem is that he's Mormon.

    January 11, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Reply
  25. cheeka

    Zakaria's real problem : Biased man in general.

    January 11, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Reply
  26. ron

    "Hopefully during the general election, we’ll have a substantive national debate about how to create jobs in America." Now that is a novel idea for a general election. As usual, it will be sound-bites and attack ads.

    January 11, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Reply
  27. Night train

    Mr. Zakaria, my hat off to you to stay motivated and share your point of view. Very few in this world have your gifts.

    As expected when an opinion is shared, not everybody agrees. But so far, none of the pro-GOP comments above are about hard facts. Instead they are all about anecdotal or personal convictions, beliefs, none of which can be substantiated, or just common plain vulgarity. Despite all this, they know you are onto something. The proof? They keep reading you over and over, and use CNN forums to vent their own frustrations and self-insecurity.

    But you persevere. Just like our President. Thank you.

    January 12, 2012 at 12:02 am | Reply
    • Melissa

      I think it's pretty factual to reference previously-written stories by Mr. Zakaria as evidence of a particular persuasion. Which, again, no one is going to be without, but I fault CNN for not providing some balanced commentary on such important issues as the Iranian nuclear dispute, or the 2012 presidential election.

      January 18, 2012 at 2:03 am | Reply
  28. Dee!

    time for President Obama to do a Biden/Hillary swap! OBAMA/CLINTON 2012! LANDSLIDE VICTORY! LETS GO!

    January 12, 2012 at 12:31 am | Reply
  29. Dee!

    Mitt "Fraud"ney has no CHANCE!

    January 12, 2012 at 12:32 am | Reply
  30. Dr. Moore

    The only argument for Mitt: "anyone but Obama"

    WELL then you're in for an UNPLEASANT SURPRISE when the $1B DNC machine exposes Mitt on national tv.

    Mitt is a failed, 1-term Governor with 34% approval, even with all the leftish junk he did.

    PHONY POPULIST proof: "Mittstant Replay" youtube -or- mittvmittcom


    January 12, 2012 at 12:40 am | Reply
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