Mitt Romney gave a sneak preview of a defense he plans to use against President Obama when it comes to the former governor's tenure at Bain Capital, a "vulture capitalist" firm.
Pressed by Newt Gingrich on his time as a private equity executive, Romney turned the question to Obama. "He's been practicing crony capitalism," Romney said of the president. "You've got to stop the spread of crony capitalism."
Crony capitalism isn't a new charge to throw around, though using it to neutralize Bain is.
Romney's list of particulars included the auto bailout, Solyndra, appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Keystone XL pipeline. Only Solyndra could plausibly be considered crony capitalism, if the charge that the administration sent a $5 million loan guarantee to the solar panel company to take care of campaign contributors is accurate.
The auto bailout and the NLRB examples, even in Romney's own formulation, are at worst favors done for Big Labor, not crony capitalists. The pipeline, meanwhile, is backed by large elements of labor, while opposed by environmentalists, so it's difficult to include it under a crony capitalism umbrella.
Debates are a good place to work out messaging, and Romney appears to be trying out crony capitalism.