Via Maggie Haberman and Ben Smith, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post slams Mitt Romney on what is supposed to be his biggest strength: business experience. In an article that Fox might call socialist if it weren't published by their parent company's flagship tabloid, Romney's career at Bain Capital is slammed all over the place. For example:
Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been out on the pre-campaign trail this month saying he is the man to get Americans back to work, despite a spotty jobs record while on Wall Street.
However, the former private equity firm chief's fortune -- which has funded his political ambitions from the Massachusetts statehouse to his unsuccessful run for the White House in 2008 -- was made on the backs of companies that ultimately collapsed, putting thousands of ordinary Americans out on the street. That truth if it becomes widely known could become costly to Romney, who, while making the media rounds recently, told CNN's Piers Morgan that "People in America want to know who can get 15 million people back to work," implying he was that person.
According to the paper, Romney "made fortunes by bankrupting five profitable businesses that ended up firing thousands of workers."
Politico's Haberman also reports that Romney is also facing trouble from another corner of the Murdoch media empire: Mike Huckabee, who now hosts a weekend show on Fox after his failed 2008 presidential bid. Apparently, Huckabee despises Romney so much that it might prompt him to run or support another candidate:
Ed Rollins, a national GOP strategist who ran Huckabee’s 2008 effort, recalled the “personal animosity” that the former Arkansas governor felt for Romney, citing the rawness over the negative campaign Romney ran as Huckabee started surging as the dark horse with no money or national establishment support in Iowa in January 2008.
“I don't think he particularly likes Romney,” Rollins said, although the strategist insisted Huckabee “doesn’t’ think much about Romney or Palin” and would only run if he believes the time is right. “I don't think he felt that Romney had a real core of convictions.”
While Huckabee is undoubtedly correct about Romney, I wonder if his animosity has roots in religion as well as policy. You may recall that Huckabee openly challenged Romney's faith during the 2008 campaign, earning him rebukes from conservatives like Charles Krauthammer for egregiously exploiting Romney's Mormonism. When Romney returned fire, Huckabee apologized, but the bad blood does not appear to have subsided.
In her article, Haberman notes observers who say that even if Huckabee doesn't run, he could still ding Romney from the sidelines. With Huckabee's perch at Fox News Channel, that's undoubtedly true, though I was intrigued by Ed Rollins' statement that Huckabee also isn't a fan of Sarah Palin. Rollins is close to Huckabee -- he was chairman of Huckabee's 2008 campaign -- and by distancing Huckabee from not just Romney but also Palin, the logical conclusion is that Huckabee is either interested in running himself or would prefer to see a lower tier candidate win. In Howard Fineman's view based on a conference call from earlier today, Huckabee is unlikely to run, so the latter scenario may be most likely.
Despite the noises coming from Huck-ville and the slam in the New York Post, Mitt Romney's big problem remains the fact that as Governor of Massachusetts he signed into law a health care reform plan that included an individual mandate -- and that he supported imposing the mandate at the national level. Romney's already slipped behind both Huckabee and Palin in 2012 GOP primary polling, and with his mandate problem he's going to find it nearly impossible to recover. His only hope: dividing up the GOP field. But even that's a longshot.