Barack Obama’s campaign has a new ad and a new micrsosite to go with it, both freshly minted today. The ad is titled “Steel,” and it attacks Mitt Romney on the closure of a steel plant after Bain took over, with the attendant job losses that occurred. It’s an expected line of attack — Newt Gingrich used it in the primary, to very little effect — but the video itself doesn’t add anything new to the argument, and goes too long to be an effective spot:
Frankly, I’m surprised that they’re rolling out this attack this early in the cycle. This ran out of steam in the Republican primary not because Republican voters love layoffs, but because it’s pretty easy to dismantle this argument. It loses its effectiveness quickly. Bain was responsible for a significant net creation of jobs, not net elimination. Not every deal is going to work out in business, but Bain did a lot better under Romney than just a break-even record, too. And while it’s a natural attack on the One Percent for Team Obama, it highlights Romney’s business experience and economic acumen at the expense of their own man.
Besides, as Jim Geraghty points out, it’s not as if Obama has never laid off any workers. Two years ago, as part of the deal that dumped billions of dollars into two American automakers, Obama used the force of government to shut down hundreds of auto dealers and lay off tens of thousands of workers — many perhaps unnecessarily:
The report by Neil M. Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program of the Treasury Department, said both car makers needed to shut down some underperforming dealerships. But it questioned whether the cuts should have been made so quickly, particularly during a recession. The report, released on Sunday, estimated that tens of thousands of jobs were lost as a result.
“It is not at all clear that the greatly accelerated pace of the dealership closings during one of the most severe economic downturns in our nation’s history was either necessary for the sake of the companies’ economic survival or prudent for the sake of the nation’s economic recovery,” the report said.
About a year ago, G.M. informed more than 2,000 dealers that some or all of their franchise agreements would not be renewed in October 2010. Chrysler eliminated 789 dealers, or about a quarter of its network, with less than a month’s notice.
Both carmakers voluntarily rescinded some terminations — 666 at G.M. and 50 at Chrysler — which, the report said, “suggests, at the very least, that the number and speed of the terminations was not necessarily critical to the manufacturers’ viability.”
Geraghty notes that Obama will have to use the same defense that Romney has for deals like the one highlighted in “Steel”:
I’m sure Obama fans will insist, “but the layoffs under our guy are completely different!” They’ll insist that in order to preserve the entire institution during a time when its continued operation was jeopardized, it was necessary to lay off certain branches and employees… which is, of course, precisely what Bain Capital was doing, or at least what the management of Bain Capital believed it was doing.
The name of the microsite featuring the attacks on Bain is “Romney Economics.” At least Romney’s works.