Mitt Romney appeared on all six network and cable morning shows on Wednesday and endured repeated liberal attacks about whether he'll be able to "defend" his business background, and even an assertion that a 16 point New Hampshire win was "not a victory." [UPDATED: See video below. MP3 audio here.]
The Republican presidential candidate showed up on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News and MSNBC. However, it was CNN's Soledad O'Brien who offered the most transparently partisan attack. Citing DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, O'Brien parroted that this "was not a victory." The "Starting Point" anchor admitted that Wasserman-Schultz's job was to "spin," but continued, "But doesn't she have a point [that]... this is a place [New Hampshire] where you have lived, and that number, while very good, is not 60 percent, or 70 percent?"
Of course, Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire by a mere three points in 2008. The reporters on CNN failed to spin that result as "not a victory."
Additionally, there were six people running in the 2012 race, making it hard to acquire 70 percent. (Oddly, O'Brien did push back when she actually interviewed Wasserman-Schultz, questioning the logic.)
O'Brien made clear that Bain would be something the media wouldn't let go of. She proclaimed, "But I get the sense that it's not a conversation that's going to go away." O'Brien continued "that this conversation keeps coming back. You haven't really been able to clear the Bain Capital conversation off the table."
CBS and ABC both hit Romney about his comment that he'd like the ability to fire health insurers who provide bad service. On "CBS This Morning," Charlie Rose previewed these talking points, insisting that Democrats will say "that...you were a destructive force in terms of companies. Will they be able to make that stick, and can you defend that, not only in the primaries, but also, in the general election?"
Rose pressed, "Do you regret the firing comment because of the way it was interpreted by some?" Rose's co-host, Bob Schieffer, was one of those misinterpreting the comment.
George Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic operative, highlighted Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich's use of the class warfare argument. (Perry referred to Romney as a "vulture capitalist.")
The "Good Morning America" host speculated, "But, are you worried that argument might get more traction in South Carolina, where unemployment, as you know, is much higher than in either Iowa or New Hampshire?"
Stephanopoulos, like Rose, fixated on the "firing" comment. He quoted from a Joe Biden speech, slamming Romney for only caring about "investors, the venture capital guys." After citing the Vice President, the host wondered, "How are you going to answer that argument?"
Stephanopoulos also tried to sweep aside an issue for the President. After Romney compared the bankruptcy restructuring of General Motors to his work at Bain, the anchor pounced, "It sounds like, though, you concede now that the American auto industry is doing better today than it was?"
By contrast, "Today's" Matt Lauer actually asked a few questions from the right. Unlike Stephanopoulos, he questioned the conservative credentials of candidates, such as Perry and Gingrich: "Do you think that some of your opponents have unwittingly turned their backs on the conservative principles that have put them in this position in the first place by attacking the free enterprise system?"
Lauer reiterated, "So they're turning their back on core Republican principles simply for their own political ambition?"
The anchors of MSNBC's "Morning Joe made similar points. Willie Geist sympathized, "They've sort of made a caricature out of you as the boss who comes in and fires people."
Joe Scarborough said of Perry's "vulture capitalist" line: "I mean, it sounds like it comes from a sign yanked out of an Occupy Wall Street rally."
Back on "Today," however, Lauer also berated Romney's speech from Tuesday night in which he called for a President who doesn't divide people "with the bitter politics of envy."
The host quizzed, "Do you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country is envious? Is it about jealousy or is it about fairness?"
FNC's "Fox and Friends" hosts pushed Romney to be more aggressive. Gretchen Carlson cajolled, "Now that [your time at Bain] is under attack, a lot of critics are saying you need to come out front and be more aggressive in defending your time at Bain capital. Will you do that?"
Brian Kilmeade noted the improving economy and wondered, "...Are you concerned that the economy won't be a major issue and your main reason for running will be taken from you?"
A transcript of just the Bain Capital and "firing" questions from Romney's January 11th interviews can be found below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, Governor, your tenure at Bain Capital became a target over the last few days. Newt Gingrich and his allies taking you on. They're already advertising in South Carolina. Rick Perry compared you to a vulture. In your speech last night, we heard you call them desperate. But, are you worried that argument might get more traction in South Carolina where unemployment, as you know, is much higher than in either Iowa or New Hampshire?
STEPHANOPOULOS: In your speech last night, you also took direct aim at President Obama. And Vice President Biden gave his own speech to New Hampshire Democrats last night where he took direct aim right back at you. He talked at your tenure at Bain again and this is a quote from Vice President Biden, who's talking about you. He says "He thinks it's more important for the stockholders, share holders and the investors, the venture capital guys to do well than for the employees to be part of the bargain." How are you going to answer that argument?
MATT LAUER: While those other candidates have not united around one candidate, they have seemed to unite around a way to attack you, Governor, and that is that they are going after your record as a businessman, as a venture capitalist, your time as CEO of Bain Capital. And they're using these words like predator, raider and vulture.
Here's what you said in your speech last night, you said that some, quote, "desperate Republicans," end quote, were attacking the notion of success itself. You said, quote, "This is such a mistake for our party and our nation, the country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy." Do you think that some of your opponents have unwittingly turned their backs on the conservative principles that have put them in this position in the first place by attacking the free enterprise system?
LAUER: So they're turning their back on core Republican principles simply for their own political ambition?
LAUER: Let me, though, ask you about the choice of words last night when you said that, "we already have a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy." I'm curious about the word envy. Do you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country is envious? Is it about jealousy or is it about fairness?
LAUER: Yeah, but envy? Is it-
MITT ROMNEY: And the American people, I believe, in the final analysis, will reject it.
LAUER: Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?
CBS This Morning
07:07 am EST
CHARLIE ROSE: Clearly, you know that the outlines of what they want to say about your tenure at Bain Capital are clear, that you were not a- you were a destructive force in terms of companies. Will they be able to make that stick, and can you defend that, not only in the primaries, but also, in the general election?
ROSE: Do you regret the firing comment because of the way it was interpreted by some?
ROSE: But as you move to South Carolina, what do you expect in terms of the rising intensity of the attacks?
Fox and Friends
BRIAN KILMEADE: Governor, I know it must be especially gratifying because you were so crestfallen when you lost to John McCain last time around and never got on your feet again in New Hampshire [sic]. It's a different story now. But as you head to South Carolina, something else is guaranteed. That your days at Bain Capital and your approach to business is going to be questioned and it's going to be looked to be defined. How do you feel- I know last night you mentioned that you're disappointed Republicans are bringing it up. But, regardless, how do you feel about defending your days at Bain?
GRETCHEN CARLSON: But your campaign and you yourself must have been stunned that these attacks came out now. Not only from your Republican colleagues but, but, but attacks in general because your strong point in running for president has been people believe you can fix the economy and you have this massive private business experience to be able to do that. Now that that is under attack, a lot of critics are saying you need to come out front and be more aggressive in defending your time at Bain capital. Will you do that?
WILLIE GEIST: Governor Romney, it's Willie Geist, congratulations on your win last night. It has become abundantly clear from Newt Gingrich to Rick Perry, and also out of Chicago, if you do go on to become the nominee, there line of attack against you is going to go right to what you did as the head of Bain Capital. They've sort of made a caricature out of you as the boss who comes in and fires people. What is your best specific answer to that criticism about what you did exactly at Bain?....
JOE SCARBOROUGH: What do say to Rick Perry, a guy that has been casting himself as a conservative's conservative in this campaign and over the past ten years in Texas, what do you not only say to Rick Perry but also to Rick Perry supporters, his contributors, when Governor Perry goes out and attacks you as being a quote, "vulture capitalist"? That – I mean, it sounds like it comes from a sign yanked out of an Occupy Wall Street rally.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about Bain Capital, and I know that's a question you've been answering a lot. But I get the sense that it's not a conversation that's going to go away. I want to play a little bit of what Rick Perry – who came in with one percent of the vote – so maybe he's not considered a big competitor for you, but this is what he said about you yesterday.
RICK PERRY: There is a real difference between a venture capitalist and a vulture capitalist. And venture capitalists are good, they go in, they inject their capital, they create jobs. Bain Capital, on the other hand it appears to me, were vulture capitalists all too often. And I don't get confused for a minute that Barack Obama and his team wouldn't attack Mitt Romney on that during a general election if he makes it that way. So if nothing else, we're doing Mitt a favor by exposing him early on so that he can either figure out how to defend that, or more importantly, and better from my perspective, he's not the nominee to begin with.
(End Video Clip)
O'BRIEN: Wow, there's a lot to talk about right there. Okay, so he calls you a vulture capitalist, and it's true that this conversation keeps coming back. You haven't really been able to clear the Bain Capital conversation off the table. So one, are you a vulture capitalist, is this going to be a big challenge for you to confront that kind of label from Governor Perry, and two, he says that I'm doing him a favor by bringing it up now. Is that true?