Do Republicans Wish They Retroactively Had Let Newt Sustain His Bain Attacks?


Two soundbites from the Sunday shows have made a big stink: Mitt Romney’s former Bain partner, Ed Conard, admitting that Mitt was legally CEO of Bain until 2002. And GOP fixer Ed Gillespie, distancing Mitt from the outsourcing Bain did by insisting Mitt had “retroactively retired” before all the bad stuff happened but while (Conard confirmed) he was legally CEO.

All that’s on top of the fact that Mitt was profiting mightily from this vulture capitalism and siphoning the money to his offshore havens in Bermuda and Cayman Islands, which we’re not yet really talking about.

More telling, though, is the list of Republicans now calling on Mitt to release more his tax returns:

  • Columnist Bill Kristol
  • AL Governor Robert Bentley
  • Lobbyist and former MS Governor Haley Barbour
  • Columnist George Will
  • Strategist Matt Dowd
  • Strategist Ana Navarro
  • Strategist John Weaver

Now, none of these people–with the possible exception of Barbour–are big insiders who have any leverage over Mitt. Moreover, I can’t think of any way that any of them would definitely know the content of Mitt’s tax returns.

But what if they do? What if they know or suspect that those tax returns would expose not just Mitt’s role in Bain (including how much they paid him in salary in 2001 and 2002 to do, Mitt claims, absolutely nothing), but how much money he siphoned away to tax havens so as to avoid paying his fair share to the country he now wants to lead? What if they know the tax returns will doom his campaign, and want to force him to release them now, while they can still replace him with Chris Christie or someone else? (To be fair, with such a diverse mix of GOPers, I suspect they’ve got different motives for their comments, including–some of them–good faith belief releasing the forms would be best.)

Which makes me think back to the week in January when the GOP had the chance to fully expose what Mitt did at Bain–with the video Newt’s SuperPAC released above–but backed off that chance. (h/t ZachBeauchamp for finding a working copy)

Newt released the video on January 7. By January 10, Newt accused Mitt of undermining capitalism. But then, on January 11, he reversed himself, claiming he overstepped and asking his SuperPAC to edit the video, using the same claims of inaccuracy advanced by fact checkers that have foundered on the obvious facts included in SEC filings now. But by January 17, he was calling on Mitt to release his tax returns. Newt won the South Carolina primary on January 21. On January 24, Mitt released a single tax return, showing he paid very little in taxes and had tax shelters in Switzerland (now closed), Bermuda, and Cayman Islands, but revealing nothing about what he did in the key years in 2001 and 2002. Since Mitt won the nomination, Newt has even warned Democrats not to attack Mitt on the same terrible Bain record he himself did.

I sort of get the feeling Newt knows what’s in Mitt’s tax returns. Indeed, I’ve seen oblique tweets from a few Republicans this weekend saying “I told you so” and paying off debts, leading me to believe more than a few Republicans tried to warn their party that this Bain thing would blow up and are now being vindicated.

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Steve Schmidt Doesn’t Blame Palin

picture-56.thumbnail.pngWell, to his credit, Steve Schmidt isn’t blaming the Wasilla Wonder for McCain’s loss. In fact, he looks to the Palin selection as a victory (though he doesn’t name her specifically), insofar as it reversed what Schmidt describes as Obama "running away" with the race until her selection.

And I’m very proud of the fact that when Senator Obama came to opening up the lead and running away with this race, in August, when he returned from his trip to Europe, that we were able to halt his momentum, and to figure out a way to get ahead in the race by the middle of September, which is something that nobody thought was possible for us to do. We needed to, at a strategic level, at our convention, excite the base, appeal to the middle, distance ourselves from the policies of the administration, and to, um, recapture the reform and maverick credential that had been whittled away. And, that strategy was succeeding, and it worked until there was an economic collapse, and I’m proud of the fact that John McCain got up and fought every day, in very trying circumstances.

But even in this statement, he betrays self-delusion. McCain’s Palin spike–and Palin’s favorables–reversed before the financial crisis hit hard; Lehman filed for bankruptcy on September 14 and McCain’s "fundamentals of the economy are strong" comment was on September 15, but McCain peaked closer to September 8 or 9. I first noted Palin’s falling favorability ratings on September 12, and by September 16, the fall in her favorability was noted by others. 

The polls reflected the early success of her strategy. In the three days after Palin joined Team McCain–Aug. 29-31–32 percent of voters told the pollsters at Diageo/Hotline that they had a favorable opinion of her; most (48 percent) didn’t know enough to say. (The Diageo/Hotline poll is conducted by Financial Dynamics opinion research; it’s the only daily tracking poll to regularly publish approval ratings.) By Sept. 4, however, 43 percent of Diageo/Hotline respondents approved of Palin with only 25 percent disapproving–an 18-point split. Apparently, voters were liking what they were hearing. Four days later, Palin’s approval rating had climbed to 47 percent (+17), and by Sept. 13 it had hit 52 percent. The gap at that point between her favorable and unfavorable numbers–22 percent–was larger than either McCain’s (+20) or Obama’s (+13).

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The Gray Lady’s Lizard-Brain Logic



Fact One: After McCain appeared before a lime jello and cottage cheese background in June, Steve Schmidt swore that he would never let the campaign embarrass John McCain like that again.

Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain and a veteran of President Bush’s 2004 campaign, could barely hide his fury in the coming days, as he announced — to anyone who would listen — that he personally would make certain the McCain campaign would never again embarrass Mr. McCain.

“Fun Steve is dead,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Fact Two: After the lime jello cottage cheese incident, McCain had Evil Steve Schmidt take over the campaign.

Mr. Schmidt traveled with Mr. McCain for the first part of the year. But Mr. McCain sent him back to the headquarters in Crystal City, Va., after Republican complaints about Mr. McCain’s struggling campaign, epitomized by that Green Wall episode.

Mr. Schmidt gave the war room a more central place in Mr. McCain’s campaign, streamlining its decision making so only a few key aides decide what is worthy of response and, more important in Mr. Schmidt’s view, what presents an opportunity to attack Mr. Obama as elite, out of touch and lacking substance.

Fact Three: Thursday night, John McCain was once again embarrassed by being placed in front of a green backdrop–made even worse because it was an image of Walter Reed Middle School that should have been an image of Walter Reed hospital.

Three months after Mr. Schmidt’s “Fun Steve is dead” declaration, there was Mr. McCain giving his acceptance speech at the convention on Thursday night. His backdrop? A shimmering screen of green, until it was switched over to a more dignified blue.

Conclusion: AdNags and Jim Rutenberg conclude that this represents great improvement and the sign of a masterfully competent campaign, all thanks to Schmidt.

In the three months since that night in June, the McCain organization has become a campaign transformed: an elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine that was on display last week at the convention that nominated Mr. McCain. And the catalyst for the change has largely been Mr. Schmidt, a 37-year-old veteran of the winning 2002 Congressional and 2004 presidential campaigns, where he worked closely with Karl Rove, then President Bush’s senior strategist.