It’s a subtle change, notable only because it contributes to a reshaping of questions about the length of Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded.
In recent days, Romney and his defenders have begun to say Romney left his “day-to-day” duties at Bain Capital when he took over the Salt Lake City Olympics in February 1999, seemingly absolving him of responsibility for any bankruptcies, layoffs, or offshore outsourcing after 1999 by companies Bain had invested in.
Ed Gillespie, a senior Romney adviser, used the phrase in Sunday talk show appearances on both CNN and NBC.
“He wasn’t engaged in the day-to-day activities at all,” Gillespie said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“His partners have all come out and said he was not involved in the day-to-day decisions, and that’s a fact,” he added on “Meet the Press.”
The real question is whether Romney had any involvement at all.
In an interview Friday on CNN, Romney himself referred to a Bain Capital investment prospectus from 2000 that did not list him among 18 “investment professionals responsible for the day-to-day affairs” of Bain Capital funds.
But these statements address only the straw-man attack articulated by former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove — “that [Romney] didn’t take a leave of absence to go run the Olympic Committee and continued to run Bain.”
However, Romney established a much stricter standard of separation when he asserted on his most recent financial disclosure form that he “has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way” since he took over the Olympics.
The real question is not about whether Romney had day-to-day involvement with Bain Capital but about whether he had any involvement at all.
There is no serious debate about whether Romney took a leave of absence to run the Olympics. He did. And there is no serious debate about whether Romney continued to run the day-to-day affairs of Bain Capital. He did not.
Rove and others appear determined to pretend those debates exist because they are easily winnable.
Rove compared Romney to the late Apple chief executive Steve Jobs.
“When Steve Jobs was the CEO of Apple and took a leave of absence for medical reasons, nobody continues to say, ‘Well, you’re the guy who’s making the day-to-day decisions,’ ” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Romney was busy running the Olympics.”
Rove noted correctly that like Jobs, Romney stepped away from the day-to-day decisions of his company.
The questions now are coming from people who suspect Romney’s leave of absence resembled that of Jobs, who continued to participate in major Apple moments, such as the release of the iPad 2 and the company’s Mac Lion operating system.
Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.