The anti-jobs candidate

My friend Peter Daou had an item the other day, noting the potency of the Republican presidential frontrunner’s message: “Romney is a threat because he can focus on a dead simple message: ‘I’m a successful businessman, I’ll create jobs and fix the economy.'”

That’s exactly right. Mitt Romney, at least this latest version of him, has an entire campaign rationale that fits comfortably into a tweet. Better yet, it’s a message that voters are eager to hear.

Ed Kilgore had a related piece on this the other day, summarizing the argument that Romney and his backers are likely to push aggressively: “Romney has an extensive corporate background, looks the part of a CEO, and without question, he would prefer an issues environment focused on anything other than health care reform or the cultural issues on which he’s never inspired trust among conservatives.”

Romney doesn’t want to talk about health care or the fact that he was a pro-choice moderate who supported gay rights and gun control. Indeed, he would just as soon hope people forget he was even a governor. This is Businessman Mitt, running as a less ridiculous version of Herman Cain.

Kilgore’s argument is that this message is simple and straightforward, but it probably won’t help him in a competitive Republican primary. That’s compelling, but my take is a little different: I think Romney’s biggest problem is that the message brings to the fore his key weaknesses — Romney’s record on jobs is atrocious.

Stephen Colbert devoted a terrific segment to this the other day, highlighting Romney’s “real claim to business fame,” which is “founding a private equity company called BainCapital.” The embed won’t fit the column length of the redesigned website, but here’s the heart of Colbert’s take:

“You see, Romney made a Mittload of cash using what’s known as a leveraged buyout. He’d buy a company with ‘money borrowed against their assets, groomed them to be sold off and in the interim collect huge management fees.’ Once Mitt had control of the company, he’d cut frivolous spending like jobs, workers, employees, and jobs. Just like America’s sweetheart, Gordon Gecko. […]

“Because Mitt Romney knows just how to trim the fat. He rescued businesses like Dade Behring, Stage Stories, American Pad and Paper, and GS Industries, then his company sold them for a profit of $578 million after which all of those firms declared bankruptcy. Which sounds bad, but don’t worry, almost no one worked there anymore.

“Besides, a businessman can’t be weighed down with a bleeding heart, as one former Bain employee put it, ‘It was very clinical…. Like a doctor. When the patient is dead, you just move on to the next patient.’ See? Mitt Romney is like a doctor! [On screen: Dr. Kevorkian]”

And this is the part of Romney’s record he’s most proud of. Romney slashed American jobs as if his career depended on it — and it did.

Complicating matters, during Romney’s only service in public office, his state’s record on job creation was “one of the worst in the country.” Adding insult to injury, “By the end of his four years in office, Massachusetts had squeezed out a net gain in payroll jobs of just 1 percent, compared with job growth of 5.3 percent for the nation as a whole.”

How bad is Romney’s record? During his tenure, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in jobs growth.

Yes, Romney has a simple message: “I’m a successful businessman, I’ll create jobs and fix the economy.” It also comes with an equally simple response: “Mitt Romney is the anti-jobs candidate.”