Mitt Romney says he knows a photo in which he appears with other executives at Bain Capital LLC posing with cash in their hands, pockets and mouths will be used against him if he wins the Republican presidential nomination.
The 1980s image -- called the “Gordon Gekko” photo by some Democrats, a reference to the Michael Douglas character in the movie “Wall Street” -- offers an easy attack line at a time of high unemployment and sharp rhetoric against the nation’s top money managers, investors and bankers.
“We posed for a picture, just celebrating the fact that we had raised a lot of money and then we hoped to be able to return it with a good return,” Romney said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Romney, a co-founder of the Boston-based private-equity fund, said the photo was taken after the company’s first closing on an investment fund, one that raised $37 million.
Democrats have tried to suggest that Romney is out of touch with ordinary Americans and have pointed to his personal wealth, including his proposed $10,000 wager with Texas Governor Rick Perry during a Dec. 10 debate. He is worth as much as $250 million, according to a financial disclosure he filed in August.
If he wins his party’s nomination, the former Massachusetts governor said he expects free enterprise will be “on trial” as he campaigns against President Barack Obama in 2012.
Job Losses ‘Unfortunate’
Romney, appearing in his first weekend news program interview in almost two years, said job losses were an “unfortunate” part of Bain’s investments in companies, adding that in a sound economy people should be able to find new jobs.
“Our intent in every case was to either help people realize their dreams by starting a business or taking a business that was failing or underperforming and making it more successful,” he said.
Romney presented a business effort that contrasts with the Gekko character in the movie.
“My business was not buying things, taking them apart, closing them down,” he said. “My business was associated with trying to make enterprises more successful. Not always was I able to succeed. But in each case, we tried to grow an enterprise.”
The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that four of the 10 top dollar investments by Bain under Romney’s leadership went bankrupt.
Downside of Reality
“It’s the downside, it’s the reality of what life is like in the private sector,” Romney responded when asked about that success rate.
Testing an argument he might make in a general election, Romney pointed to the federal government’s bailout of the auto industry, which included dismissals.
Obama “wanted to save the enterprise,” Romney said. “A profit in enterprise is essential to keep it alive and to keep people employed.”
The auto bailouts saved more than a million jobs, according to the Obama administration and Democrats.
Romney also kept up his criticism of Newt Gingrich, who has surged in state and national polls of the Republican contest. He specifically cited the former U.S. House speaker’s comments in May about a House Republican entitlements plan that was put forward by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.
“The speaker said this is right wing social engineering,” Romney said. “He cut the legs out from a very important message.”
Romney called Gingrich an “unreliable” conservative who sometimes has “zany” ideas. “I would not think you’d call mirrors in space to light highways at night particularly practical,” Romney said.
Long Nomination Fight
Romney said he is prepared for a long nomination fight if there is no clear victor after the first four contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. The voting starts Jan. 3 with the Iowa caucuses.
“If we go on for months and months, we will have the resources to carry a campaign,” he said.
The Sunday talk show television appearance followed a series of endorsements Romney has received in recent days, including one from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
Romney was also endorsed over this past weekend by the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa. And his campaign showcased an endorsement from Bob Dole, the Republican nominee in 1996, in an ad in yesterday’s Register that quotes the former Kansas senator as saying Romney offers the “best hope” for beating Obama.
Gingrich, speaking yesterday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program, said he was “delighted” by the Register’s endorsement of his rival because the newspaper is “solidly liberal” on its editorial page. He noted his endorsement by the Union Leader newspaper in New Hampshire, which he said has a “reliably conservative” editorial voice.
“I think that indicates who the conservative in this race is,” he said.
Gingrich said he “earned” an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Dec. 17 that criticized him for a lack of candor in business dealings with Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage company that paid his consulting business at least $1.6 million after he left Congress.
He said he supports breaking Freddie Mac into four or five companies and would like to see them “weaned” off government subsidies.
“We earned that editorial by not stopping handling this from day one and laying it out,” Gingrich said. “I didn’t personally get that kind of money. It went to a consulting firm, which had offices in three cities. And the share I got of it was relatively small.”