First it was it was Newark Mayor Cory Booker and now it’s former President Bill Clinton who can’t seem to quite fall in line behind the Obama re-election efforts when it comes to Romney’s Bain Capital record. Booker got himself in hot water when he called attacks on Bain “nauseating” on NBC’s Meet the Press, leading to a week of walk backs and reaffirmations of support by the Democratic party’s energetic rising star.
And now former President Bill Clinton has jumped into the heat with Booker declaring that Mitt Romney had a “sterling” career at Bain and in the private sector. While this isolated statement may be objectively true, it certainly doesn’t help matters when the current president and his re-election team are trying their best to use Romney’s record at Bain against him. If the Obama camp is able to use Romney’s private sector experience against him, they have a very good chance at winning the November election by cutting off Romney’s central argument on the economy, before it gains any traction.
This is why seeing a number of high profile Democrats falling out step with the rest of the re-elect team’s messaging is so peculiar. It certainly appears that Clinton realized this and “clarified” his remarks saying, “Governor Romney had a good career in business and he was a governor, so he crosses the qualification threshold for him being president,’ Clinton said. ‘But he shouldn’t be elected, because he is wrong on the economy and all these other issues. So today, because I didn’t attack him personally and bash him, I wake up to read all these stories taking it out of context as if I had virtually endorsed him, which means the tea party has already won their first great victory: ‘We are supposed to hate each to disagree.’ That is wrong.’”
The line that Clinton is threading is very narrow: He is saying that the Obama campaign should be critiquing Romney’s record at Bain without criticizing private equity as a whole. The Obama campaign and even the president though have certainly made sure to do that so Clinton’s comments are curious and inartful from the veteran politico, especially since they come on the heels of the Booker flap. When asked about Booker’s comments the president took time at a NATO press conference to stand by the Bain attack line saying, “if the main basis for him suggesting he can do a better job is his track record as the head of a private equity firm, then both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining.”
“Gov. Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He’s saying, ‘I’m a business guy. I know how to fix it.’ And this is his business. And when you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is simply not to maximize profits,” the president said. “Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about.”
It seems the president needs to continue saying this to ensure that his Democratic colleagues get the hint and get in line. Other Democrats who have spoken out against the line of attack are Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr.
Certainly, these Democrats have a personal stake in making these business friendly comments but it’s clear as well that Booker should have served as a cautionary tale that stepping on the president’s campaign message to help yourself only serves the purpose of benefiting Republicans.
Now it seems in a full pivot away from Bain and on to Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts is a good way for the Obama campaign to hold Romney’s feet to the fire without any more Democrats jumping in and getting burned.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @zerlinamaxwell