We knew the short film from Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC, targeting Mitt Romney’s private-sector work, was on the way. We didn’t know just how devastating it would be.
Probably the easiest-to-see version of “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” is online at the Winning Our Future website, but a couple of folks have posted the full, 28-minute clip to YouTube, and I’m embedding it here:
The video is a wholesale condemnation, not only of Romney’s private-equity work, but of the business model Romney relied on to get exceedingly rich. Aside from some oblique xenophobic slights sprinkled into the script, it is as liberal an indictment against the former governor as anything I’ve seen.
As David Nir put it, “The attacks, the language, the framing — the very core — of this hit job sound like things you’d expect from a lefty operation…. It’s been pretty remarkable watching the GOP primary field adopt the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street in slamming ‘corporate raider’ Mitt Romney over the past few days, but this just takes the cake. Amazing stuff.”
By mid-day, Politico reported that Gingrich had begun backing away from his own message, but by last night, the former Speaker’s campaign said it’s sticking with the Romney criticism. “We will continue to examine what decisions he made at Bain,” a spokesperson said. “And the American people can decide whether or not they want an investment banker in chief as their commander in chief.”
Many on the right, not surprisingly, are livid. Gingrich’s Super PAC is slamming the likely Republican presidential nominee with this brutal video and it’s doing so in a way that reinforces and validates liberal arguments — about Romney, about excessive greed, about the politics of income inequality, and about the ruthless, screw-the-workers style of capitalism Romney relied on to get rich.
The party establishment doesn’t want their nominee damaged before the general-election phase begins, and they especially don’t want him damaged in such a way that says concerns about Romney’s vulture capitalism is bipartisan.
Let’s also note the target audience. Ed Kilgore noted the video is “a heat-seeking missile aimed directly at the white working class id.” This is incredibly important in a 2012 context — if Romney is going to win the presidency, he’s going to need to crush President Obama with white working-class voters who tend to support the GOP anyway. This short film, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, tells this constituency that Romney is not only indifferent to their struggles, but he and people like him caused their economic plight.
Of course, the video is 28 minutes long, and campaign commercials are generally 30 seconds. The video may be brutal, but it only matters to the extent that voters actually see it. To that end, Gingrich’s pals are considering plans to buy half-hour blocks on South Carolina television, and in the short term, will air 30- and 60-second excerpts.
The challenge for Romney and his team is both the video itself and the realization that the victims it highlights are not alone — for the next 10 months, Americans will be introduced to a whole lot of people and communities who suffered “when Mitt Romney came to town.”