Romney Transcends Private Equity… Until He Doesn’t

Photograph by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Mitt Romney at a town hall meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado.

So just how big a drag is Mitt Romney’s history in private equity?

Not much, if you believe the latest NBC News Wall Street Journal Poll, which involved interviews from Sept. 12 to 16 with 900 registered voters.

Voters ranked “The company he headed cut jobs and sent jobs overseas” as their fifth-biggest concern out of seven possible answers. Abortion, contraception and gay marriage — lumped together as a single issue were the top concern. Voters also chose flip-flopping, wealth, and a lack of specific plans on taxes and spending ahead of the veiled private-equity reference.

President Obama, like Romney’s primary rivals before him, has pummeled Romney over his history at Bain Capital, the private-equity shop he founded in 1984 and ran for the following 15 years. The ads have been aggressive enough to warrant a send-up on “Saturday Night Live” during its season premier.

With the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, private equity took a back seat to wide-ranging questions about the size of government and budgetary policy. It faded further with last week’s turmoil in Libya and beyond, and with the Romney campaign’s reaction.

But private equity — much to the dismay of the industry Romney left behind — can’t quite stay out of the election fray. Within days of the poll being conducted came fresh evidence of Romney’s ties to his old job.

The nominee’s comments about entitlement and the Middle East that engulfed several successive news cycles this week came at a fundraiser thrown by… a private equity guy.

The May function that was surreptitiously videotaped was a fete at the Boca Raton, Florida home of Marc Leder, co-CEO of Sun Capital Partners, a private-equity firm that specializes in the hairiest of takeovers.

Who hosted the party seems to be secondary at best to what was said, but it’s still a fresh reminder of where Romney (and his money) came from, and where some of his biggest financial supporters still ply their trade.

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