Negative Campaigning

Obomney Watch: Solar Subsidy Edition

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This will never stop being creepy.

Poor Mitt Romney. Will he ever catch a break, or is he destined to go down in history as the Charlie Brown of presidential candidates?

Last week, Romney began a major campaign offensive against President Barack Obama over the Solyndra bankruptcy and the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program. Romney released a fairly mediocre attack commercial and gave a speech in front of Solyndra's office in Silicon Valley, attacking Obama for the $535 million loan.

Then, over the weekend, a Massachusetts solar company Romney had given a $1.5 million government loan check to when he was governor filed for bankruptcy and laid off its employees. Via Politico:

In January 2003, just less than three weeks into his term as governor, Romney handed a check to Konarka executives during a news conference that also involved giving out subsidies to four other renewable energy companies. One of the other winners announced that day — Evergreen Solar — has already undercut Romney's Solyndra attacks by filing last year for bankruptcy protection.

"Every day we see a new example of Mitt Romney's hypocrisy," Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said Saturday. "Just one day after he pulled a political stunt outside Solyndra, we learned even more about his record of picking winners and losers in Massachusetts when one of the companies he gave a loan to went bankrupt."

There are some significant differences between Romney's solar subsidy sins and the Obama administration's besides just the comparative dollar amount:

  • The loan was actually approved before Romney took office as governor
  • Even if Romney had been in office, the program that approved the loans was not under the governor's control
  • The company actually paid the loan back

It is a bit rich to see the Obama campaign attacking Romney for government spending that was approved before he took office, given the recent dust-ups over Obama's purse strings and how tightly they may or may not be tied.

It is difficult, though, to feel sorry for Romney's situation after reading this sentence in Darren Samuelsohn's weekend story:

Later in his term, Romney tried to defund the underlying green energy financing program.

Why the bloody hell was this information not a major part of Romney's attack campaign? Oh look, an actual difference between Romney and Obama on something besides gay people! Konarka's financial difficulties were apparently not much of a secret. The campaign should have been well ahead of the announcement. Rather than being put on the defensive and letting the media decide how to play it (that the Konarka loan was actually paid back doesn't appear until the second page of the Politico story), the message could have been about how Romney was well aware of how risky green energy loans were as governor and how he tried to bring about an end to them. He made no mention of his efforts during his speech at Solyndra. He set himself up to have the Obama campaign yank the ball away by not being prepared in advance for the counterattack that was surely bound to come. It could have been an "I saw it coming" moment for the governor.

Today, Obama's team launched its attack on Romney's business record as a governor with its own cherry-picked data points. Was Romney's team prepared for any of these attacks?

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