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. Person

    I still find it funny that when a reporter refuted his claim that his campaign is not run by lobbyists, he immediately turned into a broken record, just saying over and over again "my campaign is not run by lobbyists."

    If he can't even deal with simple situation like that, I don't want this moron as the commander-in-chief.

    January 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  2. Tony

    He's perceived as the fortunate son, who belongs to a secretive cult religion, who becomes irritated and condescending when questioned about his conduct.

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

    Mitt "Bernie Madoff" Romney – Fareed, you must be "jealous" and "envious" because you called Mitt Madoff Romney a fraud

    January 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  4. Raj

    Fareed you made one mistake – granted a small mathematical mistake – but an interesting one.

    You said a Bush or a Dole was on the Republican ticket for 20 years – when in fact it was for 8 straight Presidential elections between 1976 and 2004. Imagine that – 8 straight elections! Dole twice, first Bush 4 times and Dubya twice. So 2008 was the first time in 36 years neither a Bush nor a Dole was on the ticket.

    IIf Obama ends up winning 2012, you could have another Bush on the ticket in 2016 (Jeb or his son George).

    January 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • TPyle

      Raj, your calculation is correct. AND COMBINED, every GOP presidential ticket from 1952 – 2004 featured Nixon, Dole, or a Bush, except for 1964 (Goldwater-Miller).... in contrast to the Kennedy "dynasty" appearing only once on the 1960 ticket, compared to twice for LBJ.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  5. John

    we (US) haven't been able to create any jobs in what is called the “tradable sector” of the economy. Which Presidential Candidate say they can?? You think America is here to stay, if it cant compete in the tradable sector, lets say 10-20-30 years from now?

    January 12, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Reply
  6. KT

    If you're a believer in unfettered capitalism, and that the market will regulate itself in some kind of economic Darwinisn with the winners making the most money no matter how they did it, then you should have no problem with Mr. Romney's financial success. If you believe that the private sector and not government is responsible for jobs (creating them or eliminating them, goes both ways), then you should have no problem with Mr. Romney's financial success. Hmm, so now Republicans are having problems with his financial success? He didn't do anything illegal, just business as usual. Sorry, GOP, you can't have it both ways.

    January 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  7. don

    You are right bill he reminds me of Gordon Gekko too. He likes to fire people and make profit. Why doesn't he release his emails or tax returns?

    January 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
    • Median American worker

      LoL – Why doesn't obama release any of his collage transcripts or papers ?
      Answer: Because he doesn't believe they are relevant.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  8. Naivette Natterings

    I disagree, with one aspect, on a global competirive playing field high tech jobs, financial industry jobs, strategic consultanct jobs are still in the US domain. Not sure what the % might be but China is not anywhere near competing in these areas

    January 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  9. chrism

    CNN this editorial belongs in the opinion section not in the news. This is an opinionated editorial. Fareed is inventing "problems" and labeling all Christians and catholics who are pro-life as "activists" getting a "sense of power" from "pandering?" What in the world is this piece of junk and you have the nerve to run it? What did you invest too much money in your tea party bed-fellows?

    January 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  10. mark

    Greed is good!!

    January 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  11. devosays

    Fareed who, this guy is so full of B.S. and bias he should have no business on such a fine and upstanding news media outlet as CNN.... oh, wait... nevermind

    January 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  12. carlos


    January 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  13. bmesc

    Romney was not a "job creator," he was (is?) a return on investment creator. Jobs, added or delete, and the fate of companies after he left, were consequential to his main goal: making more money for his wealthy investors, and himself. I think people will see that in the end.

    January 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  14. Stango

    IWhy doesn't Mr. Fareed wear his turbin in public? Did he forget to pick it up from the dry-clean?

    January 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
    • al

      He sold it, so he can buy a little portion of brain.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  15. lineman

    The Republican party proudly represents the top .0001% of Americans who own the wealth. They are not worried about jobs, health care, the environment, immmigration or social issues and they don't need retirement. The only issue the GOP cares about is not letting the Bush tax cuts expire especially for the super rich and cutting enough social programs so that with their low taxes the deficit does not get out of hand. A very profitable war with Iran would be a super plus for the Republicans but after Bush's Iraq disaster that might be hard to pull off. The GOP war on the American middle class is in full swing.

    January 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  16. mikemis

    Your argument's fine until you get to the claim that "America has not been able to create any jobs in any sector that's subject to global and technological pressures." Huh? What about Silicon Valley – it's led the recovery from the Great Recession, and the high tech CEOs have been the leading advocates for relaxing the H1-B visa restrictions precisely because they claim they can't find enough Americans to fill the high tech jobs they have. I don't accept your claim.

    January 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  17. David D.

    We have a $650 billion goods trade deficit, which is 10-15 million jobs overseas making our goods instead of here. For scale, we created 2 million jobs since 2000 and 15-20 million in each of the preceding 3 decades. One solution is to tax U.S. companies for the wage differential when they offshore jobs. The true cost of foreign imports excludes unemployment insurance, damage to the U.S. skills base, damaged families and household wealth, etc. Free trade was not about sending your jobs to your trading partner. This was inconceivable when David Ricardo developed his theories.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  18. DE

    One of the major problems with the republifascist party is that there are no moderates anymore. The whole party has moved to the extreme fascist right.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
    • al

      God, you so stupid.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Reply
    • Median American worker

      Facists are not reguarly follow right wing beliefs. Maybe you should go back and read some history books instead of drinking the leftist lemonade ! !

      January 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  19. Jenna NYC

    WE can't create jobs because Obama's policies are killing the ability to create jobs...everything he proposes and does is exactly the opposite of what he should do...his regulations, committees, health care fiasco will bankrupt America.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Reply
    • chrism

      Agree, Jenna, his massive spending only leads to requiring more taxes and crushing the economy. Romney has the business sense to run a tight ship, knowing its the way for the government to stay off business' backs. They'll hire more people and create jobs.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
    • Median American worker

      But Governemnt jobs are up !!!

      January 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Reply
    • FLIndependent

      Jenna, instead of repeating the Faux News soundbites, how about giving us details/specifics on the policies you think are hurting the economy that Obama put in place. Also, do you not realize that there are many policy ideas, ie Obama's job plan, that haven't been put into effect because the Repub/Tea Party Congress hasn't passed them?

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

    "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."

    This is the most absurd statement I've ever read. There isn't a republican on the face of the earth that could care less about the Median American worker or Middle Class. Even republicans that ARE median American workers continually support positions that are contrary to thier own best interest. Ideology trumps common sense. Idiots. I'm living overseas and think that Americans deserve to get what they've been begging for for the last few years – A republican White House and Congress. If this happens I think Democrats need to go home and let republicans push through everything and anything they want. I say give America what America has been begging for and let the fools pay the consequences.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • Median American worker

      What makes you such an expert on the subject ?
      I myself have lived in the great socialist Europe. Good Beer, lhigh taxes, lousy health care and minimal freedom.
      My god, even children are required to have photo id cards on them at all times.
      If you are living overseas and are not American – keep your opinons to yourself please !
      The European model is not that great.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Reply
      • Dan

        I think you may be missing AJ's point. AJ is saying that s/he's so confident that s/he's right about the failure of conservative, top down, "Voodoo economics, that s/he's willing to step aside and abdicate the throne to those s/he disagrees with. I think this could be a great strategy. If AJ is right, our collapse will be expedited and meaningful change can occur sooner rather than later. If AJ is wrong, the country will be repaired. Sounds like a win-win to me.

        January 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  21. JOE

    I'll never vote for or support Republicans who would allow another 9/11 to happen. These people really don't give a damn about the welfare and well being of the American people whatsoever. The GWB administration failed to protect and defend America from the 9/11 terrorist attacks then they made us even more vulnerable to domestic and global terrorism by starting an illegitimate Iraqi war. And what is outrageous about this war is after the Republicans didn't find WMD's in Iraq, they jokingly re-named their mission "Iraqi Freedom" as though the Iraqi people came to the UN asking for regime change or to be freedom from something. And if you still have reservations as to whether these wealthy Republicans really don't give a hoot about the American people, then just ask yourself why did Dick Cheyney go on CNN a few months ago and stated without restraint that he has no regrets whatsoever. All these dead Americans and Dick Cheyney and the Republicans have no regrets whatsoever.

    And sadly to say, our troops are still dying in Afghanistan ten years later because Dick Cheyney and these very same Republicans in congress deliberately and recklessly abandoned and prolonged the Afghan war to start their illegitimate Iraqi war. And that is an Afghan war that should have been over at least five years ago. When Americans protested and complained at the onset of the Iraqi war, GWB said we should show solidarity for our troops because they have voluntered to sacrifice their lives for their country. Well, that is plain old BS. No American soldier enlists in our arm forces to die. Yes they are aware of the risks but they don't enlist to fight for a cause or die for a casue that's in the interest of wealthy Republicans.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Reply
    • Ron R

      Oh delusional one. There is not a shred of fact in your entire rant. You do know that the major FBI/CIA failures that led to the 9-11 Trade Center occurred during the Clinton tenure and carried over into the beginning of Bush'es first term. I do not blame either men for the act of terrorist's. That would be like blaming the the victim for the mugging. You need to be in a rubber room.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
      • FLIndependent

        That may well be all well and good, however everyone knows that Bush & Co. were given warnings about a possible attack by the Clinton administration and by the memo sent to Bush just days before it happened. Sorry, but there were not at all diligent and most likely could have stopped it or, at the very least, minimized the damage.

        January 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  22. Chris

    Great analysis as always Fareed our blog made this very point earlier this week!

    January 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Reply
  23. Selby

    Check this article out...its from CNN money defending Bain and Mitt Romney against UNTRUE claims from Newt aka "Angry Muffin" supported anti-romney ads..... poor newt needs to follow his advice to Ron Paul and STOP LYING:)

    January 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  24. KJM1968

    America deserves RomneyCare! Hey, he stuck us with it, why not the rest of the country? Oh wait, he was for it before he was against it, before he was for it...., but that was when he was pro-choice. Mittens will say whatever you want to hear, it just won't be the truth.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  25. LBAM

    For all you Democrats and ReFlubicant.., here are your reasons to vote for R-Money or (any ReFlubicants) if he wins the nomination.

    You are on Medicare, SS or Medicade and you just want to get off
    You want a war with China or Iran
    Tired of being rich or a member of the elite 1%
    Enjoy being rich
    Enjoy wearing your flip-Flop on your Mittens ot vice-versa
    Poor, and yearn to give youe little pay check to the 1%
    You have a house in Foreclosure
    Hate your Pay role Tax cut
    You are a middle Class and just Hate being so.
    You are one Ignorant person
    You Hate the middle Class
    You have 250 Million in the bank
    You think Corporations are people
    Lastly, you yearn to be fired from your million Dollar job

    January 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Mr. Happy

      Whew, that sums up the one reason you need a prescription for some lithium.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Reply
    • BADGUY

      You know...I wish the GOP would give lessons on how to convince people to vote against their best interests. How DO they do it? Just think, after taking the course you could sell "Coals to Newcastle", "Refrigerators to Eskimos" "East River Bridges to New Yorkers" and "snake oil" from the back of your BMW mini-van! The world would be YOURS to command! REALLY, I wonder if they do offer a course or courses and where I could sign up? Anyone know?....PLEASE!

      January 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  26. tstorm

    No one should be elected president who makes comments such as, "I enjoy firing people." No one shoudl be elected president who says, "Corporations are people, too". And no one should be elected president that stands with a party that has openly boo'd our troops at one of their presidential debates. Romney is not qualified to become president.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  27. Mr. Happy

    How CNN continues to give this giy a forum is beyond me.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
    • al

      I agree 100%.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  28. Terry

    Well, it appears that the GOP and Mitt Romney figured out a way to defeat the Tea Party. Now maybe the new Republicans elected to the House and Senate will get something done. I like the fact that Romney wants to raise taxes, pay down the debt, and begin to cut wasteful spending.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
    • Frank

      Where did you hear that Romney want to raise taxes? He took Grover's pledge, same as the other GOP candidates. Are you saying that he's the kind of person who says one thing and then does another.

      January 12, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Reply
  29. jo an

    No one can beat OBAMA...that is my HOPE!! His huge number of supporters are saving their energy for the Republican Nominee....Obama has done a magnificent job with the MESS he inherited....Now to give him a DEMO House and Senate..and pray for the Supreme change....

    January 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Reply
    • Larry in Houston

      Thanks Jo An – for your post – I agree – he inherited such a mess with "bush" it will take 8 yrs to straighten out, if the truth be known.

      January 13, 2012 at 1:10 am | Reply
  30. Frank

    I'm not sure I agree with Fareed's use of the phrase "creative destruction." That refers to a process in which technological innovation replaces one job with another – as when the automobile put the horse buggy builders out of business. The "creative" part of that was the the automobile created both new products and new jobs – more of both than had existed when we all got around in buggies. The problem Mitt Romney has is that his brand of capitalism doesn't create new products and new jobs, just huge profits for people like himself. That is what will cost him the Presidency.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Reply
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