Obama is focusing on a clear message in the election campaign: In videos, he portrays Mitt Romney as a job destroyer who doesn’t care about the middle class. A risky strategy.
Potatoes, spinach, broccoli, carrots. In the garden of the White House, vegetables grow under the strict supervision of Michelle Obama because her social engagement required by the position of first lady is dedicated to healthy eating and the proper nourishment of children. Countering the obesity of a nation, Michelle Obama has herself photographed dancing and in sack races, gives interviews and invites children to dig together with her in the earth of the White House garden. On Tuesday her first book will appear, “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.” An appealing, uncritical topic that earns bonus points for the Obama family.
Apart from the gardens, Barack Obama is pursuing an election strategy that is not as easy to sell as the garden history of the White House. In unusually long videos, Obama’s campaign team is dedicating itself to Mitt Romney and his activities with the investment firm Bain Capital. Emotional stories of job loss, hopelessness and the suffering of the middle class are told, all linked to the name Mitt Romney.
The story of the GS Technologies steel mill in Kansas City is the prelude. “We weren’t rich, but I was able to put my daughter through college,” says Joe Soptic, who was employed as a steel worker for 30 years until Mitt Romney and Bain Capital came to Kansas City. The mill was bought up by the investment firm where Romney was CEO. “They made as much money off it as they could, and they closed it down, they filed for bankruptcy …” continues the story of Joe Soptic.
Newspaper excerpts and videos from 2004 bear witness to the demise of a whole region — rundown stores, deserted company grounds. The sole message of the 6-minute spot: Romney, the job destroyer.
The strategy is clear and well-known: Incumbent Obama is trying to attack the picture his probable challenger has designed for himself. Romney, whose nomination at the Republican National Convention in Florida is only a matter of formality, has always portrayed himself politically as an experienced businessman who can bring the American economy back on the right track and lower unemployment.
Romney, whose fortune is estimated at up to $250 million, worked for financial investor Bain Capital in the '80s and '90s. The firm invests in or buys companies that are in financial trouble or are start-ups and restructures them to sell them at a profit. The U.S. edition of Vanity Fair quotes an analysis of Deutsche Bank, according to which 68 deals were closed under Romney’s supervision. In 33 Bain Capital lost money or broke even. However, all in all, the business flourished under Romney; investors became rich, including Romney.
The former governor of Massachusetts likes to speak at public appearances about how he contributed to securing and creating thousands of jobs in the U.S. Like at Staples Inc., a company that sells office supplies that began as a start-up in 1986 and turned into a several million dollar corporation after the entrance of Bain Capital. “… We helped create over 100,000 new jobs. By the way, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president’s created in the entire country,” Romney was quoted by Fox News at the beginning of January.
With the website Romneyeconomics.com that Obama created, he is attacking Romney on exactly this point. Along with the example of the steel mill in Kansas City, a further video was released the beginning of last week that tells the downfall of American Pad and Paper Co., Ampad. “I really feel in my heart that people need to know what Mitt Romney did …” begins the story of Valerie Bruton, "This was the worst day of my life.” Via emotional individual stories the picture of Romney as a job creator is supposed to be replaced by the image of a ruthless investor who places personal profit above the little people.
The aggressive strategy is not uncontroversial within the Democratic Party. Newark’s Democratic Mayor Cory Booker criticized Obama for attacking the business model of finance capitalists per se. Other Democrats also expressed criticism of it – the strategy also potentially affects wealthy contributors to the Democrats. Booker qualified his remarks in the course of the week, albeit too late.
The Republican Party used the media’s criticism of Obama and the internal party debate about the ads to release their own video. “Obama’s Worst Week Ever?” the ad asks and lists with relish the Democrats that have taken a position against the president. Romney himself has not explicitly remarked on the attacks of his opponent.
In spite of the controversy surrounding the aggressive strategy, Obama’s campaign will collect additional stories to convey its image of Romney. “Job creator or job destroyer?” has become one of the central questions in the upcoming presidential election.
Romney will need to allow himself and his Bain Capital past to be measured on balance against Obama in the White House. Recent polls see both candidates almost equal in voter support: According to Gallup, Obama stands at 47 percent, Romney at 45.