The Boston Globe ran a hotly discussed story yesterday that included strong evidence that Romney has mislead the public on his involvement with Bain Capital, shedding further light on the controversial issue of whether or not he should be held accountable for the happenings at Bain after 1999. Much to the delight of the Obama camp, which has spent millions of dollars on ads denouncing Romney for allegedly helping to outsource jobs and to engage in corporate raiding while at Bain, the allegations hinged upon SEC filings that detailed Romney as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” of the company from 1999 to 2002. The uproar that has subsequently ensued is rooted in the implication that, if the SEC filings are accurate, Romney has a lot of explaining to do.
Romney has distanced himself from Bain and its unpopular practices by claiming that the practices in question began after he left the company to manage the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. One of his spokespeople recently said, “He had no input on investments or management of companies after .” Romney's press secretary went so far as to say, "The [Globe] article is not accurate." Backing this claim are documents Fortune obtained which fail to list Romney anywhere among the managers of the controversial private equity funds.
The uproar and the bickering that splits down party lines will undoubtedly continue unabated for quite some time, but to argue about the legitimacy of the Globe’s claims I think misses the most salient takeaway. This Globe article, and the firestorm of coverage it has spawned, regardless of the veracity of its claims, might just spell the death knell for Romney’s presidential aspirations.
Too far? Hear me out.
Most voters do not closely follow every notable occurrence during the nearly two-year-long presidential campaign season, at least not close enough to draw a razor-thin line of judgment in ambiguous scenarios such as this one. A plethora of questions will spring up in the minds of voters in the coming days regarding the controversy. If he was a sole stockholder in the company, should he still be held responsible for decisions made without his supervision? But were they actually under his supervision? Does this mean he outright lied to us? I am not saying that the average citizen is incapable of resolving these sorts of questions. What I mean to say is that with such heavy-handed criticism being launched Romney’s way, and with that criticism meriting legitimate concern from all parties, a seed of doubt will inevitably be planted in each voter’s mind as to the purity of Romney’s character. My feeling is that most people vote as much with their heart as with their pockets, and with so many accusations rocketing about, at least one is likely to leave a lasting impression.
With that being said, it is easy to see how the Globe piece trapped Romney as soon as it began to generate a conversation. It forced Romney to address the issue, and in doing so, not only did he unwillingly validate the seriousness of the issue, but, more importantly, he also planted it firmly in the minds of voters. I think the mere existence of all the hullabaloo surrounding the contentious issue will lead voters to question whether Romney’s superciliousness and general I’m-better-than-you air is a deserved distinction resulting from his ascendancy to America’s highest rank or instead they are indicators of underlying and unforgivable flaws of character.
In conclusion, it does not really matter how much responsibility is eventually assigned to Romney for the controversial practices at Bain. Trust is nearly impossible to regain, and it would be hard to argue that the Globe did not succeed in shaking voter faith in Romney.