The Obama campaign quickly latched on to the Washington Post story today showing that Mitt Romney’s private equity firm Bain Capital invested in companies that were innovators when it came to shipping American jobs offshore.
They have already incorporated it into the president’s stump speech and trumpeted the story on a conference call, and it is only a matter of time before the revelations appear in television ads.
But whereas 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s assault on George W. Bush for supporting outsourcing failed to deliver the blue collar voters he needed to win swing states like Ohio and Iowa, there is reason to believe the attacks on Romney will be more potent.
For one, the economy is in much worse shape than it was eight years ago – and much more central to the presidential election. When the jobs market is lackluster, nativist sentiment and skepticism towards globalization grow more powerful. The Obama campaign seems to know this, prominently featuring images of Indian call center workers in its TV spots.
What’s more, Mitt Romney has the effete air of a corporate businessman, whereas for all of his supply-side madness (and to the consternation of liberals) George W. Bush was always able to come across as a normal guy to blue collar white voters.
This isn’t to say that outsourcing will be the defining issue of this election (as Democrats wish it would be), but that both candidates are jockeying for the advantage on trade – and when it comes to outsourcing, Mitt Romney appears eminently vulnerable.