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“King of Bain”: What’s Left of the Right

Conservatives — including Newt Gingrich — have long lamented that the left has the corner on the market for political documentaries.

“King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town” is pure political speech, as it was shopped to campaigns and eventually purchased by a Gingrich-aligned SuperPAC for use in the next contest in South Carolina. It plays like a mini-version of Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” and while the clips and quotes may be wildly out of context, it has an emotional tug.

What has stirred up many in the Republican establishment is that the 28-minute movie plays like it could have come from MoveOn, but instead comes from other conservatives, including director Jason Killian Meath. Romney himself has chided rivals for adopting President Obama’s politics of “envy.” But as much as critics chide Gingrich and his supporters for staging a campaign of “class warfare,” the movie exposes fissures that have existed in the GOP for some time.

In fact, it seems designed to reach working class whites and social conservatives — a demographic that has eluded Democrats, particularly in the South. The cues are certainly there. One of the first couples interviewed is a Florida couple, victims of Bain’s purchase of an appliance company, Unimac, that closed. The woman, Tracy Jones, is wearing a cross, so presumably she is a Christian. Her husband notes that Bain sold the company to a “teachers union out of Canada. What do they know about washing machines?” Teachers unions have been a long target of GOP candidates.

Points are over the top: The narrator accuses Bain of going on a “cash rampage.” Romney’s tactics are called “more ruthless than Wall Street.” And at the end, all we see is Romney speaking French. By that point, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had found a shot of him windsurfing.

The intriguing aspect is how hard-hitting this attack is coming from a conservative POV. But that is the point of the anti-Romney forces, who see the presumptive Romney as another John Kerry, or someone who will not upend the status quote in Washington. When the Sarah Palin documentary “Undefeated” was released last summer, less surprising than attacks on Democrats were attacks on Congressional Republicans like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. “King of Bain” does play like Occupy, The Movie,” but there are enough elements in there to get a few wavering South Carolina conservatives to take a look and relate.

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