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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |


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May 14, 2012

Corporations Good or Evil

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney defends the principles of free-market capitalism as the cornerstone of his candidacy. It's easy to see why. His own business acumen has made him a multi-millionaire.


He has seen the positive impact of a thriving business community in the private sector (Bain Capital), non-profit sector (the Salt Lake City Olympics) and the public sector (the State of Massachusetts).


That experience has led him to seek the upper hand in his early campaign stages. Based on the Obama Administration's previous vilification of Wall Street, it's child's play for Team Romney to run on a pro-business agenda.


The attacks have become more pointed of late, on both sides. The most recent salvo comes from the White House. President Barack Obama has chosen to launch his re-election bid from politically comfortable surroundings, the campus of colleges and universities.


The best campaign video for Mr. Obama is accompanied by a soundtrack of chanting and cheering audiences, in this case college students freed from the obligation of class attendance. It's a genius campaign move, gather a bunch of college students in an arena, hand them a campaign placard and play some rock music over the loudspeakers.


He takes it to the next level by promising a federal program to eliminate a good part of their college loan debt, a promise he intends to pay for through his assault on evil corporations.


His campaign message is tailor-made for young Americans, full of hope for the future while challenging the established and well-connected business community.


GOP frontrunner Romney, on the other hand, seems like a throw-back to an earlier time, and to most college-age kids, he comes across like the well-heeled father of their rich kid friends.


With the relatively flat job growth numbers, logic might dictate that voters would opt for the serious business guy, not the hopeful people person.


Given all of the other advantages of incumbency, there may be something to this voter preference thing. Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney holds a slight overall advantage in most swing states, while President Obama leads in the likability polls nationwide.


The best way to describe it is that Mr. Romney is currently the guy most people would want in charge of their money, while Mr. Obama is the guy most people would want to party with.


We've been here before. Remember Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush? 1992 Challenger Clinton was the party guy, while President Bush was the serious guy.


This time things might be different, if only Governor Romney can learn that running a business is different than running a business.


In the private sector, Mitt could essentially be the guy who does what he wants and says what he wants, whenever he wants. In a national campaign, doing and saying what you want gets you on video tape.


Case in point: Recently, while running in the crucial state of Ohio, Governor Romney sat for a local television interview. This relatively unscripted session led the candidate into an unseen trap.


When asked about the auto bailout, Mr. Romney free-wheeled a response that suggested that he deserved credit for the auto manufacturing turnaround. He told the interviewer that he had supported a managed bankruptcy for U.S. automakers before the investment of federal dollars to rebuild them.


Team Obama seized on this nugget, producing copies of a Wall Street Journal opinion column penned by Mr. Romney that described a nightmare scenario if President Obama carried out his plan.


We all know that Mr. Obama and his advisors did exactly what Governor Romney said he shouldn't, and it appears to have worked in spite of the dire Romney warnings. Now the Obama Campaign has another example of Mitt's inconsistency on policy. Coupled with the gay marriage flip-flop, the gun control reversal, and the government-managed healthcare solution, it seems as though the Romney Campaign is creating its own worst obstacles.


The funny thing is that this still could be the year for an upset of the incumbent. As President Obama focuses on making corporate America the enemy if the electorate, his ability to raise wheelbarrows of cash from those same people to spread his message is limited.


You see, it's an immutable political truth. You can't raise money from people that you hit over the head with a shovel. They get tired of being hit, and they look for a guy to give money to that hits somebody else with the shovel.


So, the unsolicited advice for the Romney Campaign is really simple. Don't be afraid to be a boring business guy; people are actually looking for that. Tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. Keep your shovel in the shed, and only use to it beat the core constituents of the other campaign over the head.


Corporations are people. Sure, corporations are paper creations designed to make money for shareholders. That appears to be the limit of President Obama's understanding. Governor Romney probably understands that corporations are also the line workers, human resources professionals, marketers, receptionists, payroll clerks, and shipping processors.


If this election becomes a competing argument wherein Mitt Romney tells us the government is the problem while Barack Obama tells us that business is the enemy, and the economy continues its slow ride to November, it very possible that Mr. Romney could prevail.


On the other hand, if Mitt Romney continues to suffer from political foot-in-mouth disease throughout the summer, the fall looks really promising for the president.


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