The ranks of Democrats defending Republican Mitt Romney’s career as a buyout executive have grown with a high-profile addition: former President Bill Clinton.
In an interview last night on CNN, the Obama campaign surrogate refused to fall in line with a campaign that has sought to portray Romney’s business record as one of raiding companies, looting them for profit and destroying jobs in the process. Instead, the former president had another word for Romney’s career: “sterling.”
“I don’t think we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work; this is good work,” Clinton said of the private-equity industry. “A man who’s been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold” for the presidency, the former Arkansas governor said of the former Massachusetts governor.
Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have made it clear that Mitt Romney’s career as the head of Boston-based Bain Capital will be a focus of the 2012 campaign. While the Obama campaign originally sought to paint Bain as a “vampire,” sucking the life out of profitable companies, it has recently tried to pivot to say the buyout industry is healthy for the economy yet misses the mark when it comes to instilling a presidential candidate with the spirit of the job.
Romney, meanwhile, stresses that his years in finance make him qualified to tackle economic issues such as rising debt and weak job growth.
It remains to be seen whether Clinton will qualify his sterling approval of Romney’s business record. After Newark Mayor Cory Booker called the private-equity debate “nauseating” in a Meet the Press interview, he hurriedly backtracked, taping a YouTube video hours later to encourage the Obama campaign to examine Romney’s Bain career.
Other Democrats who have come to Bain’s defense include Steve Rattner, who headed Obama’s auto task force and previously co-founded the private-equity firm Quadrangle Group, and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who on Thursday called Bain a “perfectly fine company.”
For all this, Clinton remains on message on at least one Obama campaign talking point: he still thinks Obama will keep the White House in November by five or six percentage points.