Are President Obama's Bain Capital attacks actually helping Mitt Romney?
According to an ABC/Washington Post poll today, voters view Romney’s record at Bain as neither a positive nor a negative.
Twenty-one percent say that his business record at Bain is major reason to support him and 21 percent say that it is a reason to oppose him. Fifty-four percent of the respondents say that his record is "not a major factor" in the election.
The Romney campaign has signaled in recent weeks that they don't mind the extra attention on Romney's record at Bain Capitol, as long as it is put into context.
"There are things you can legitimately look at in Bain Capital," former Speaker Newt Gingrich said, in a CNN interview with Piers Morgan last night. "I think there are things you can legitimately look at in anyone's record, including Mitt Romney's record."
"I think the Bain record as a whole is fair," said former New Hampshire governer John Sununu in a press call this morning, but was careful to suggest that "cherry-picking" on Romney's record was a "distortion."
Based on the attacks so far, Democratic surrogates seem reluctant to join the president in his attack on private equity firms, as signaled by Newark Mayor Corey Booker, Former U.S. Congressman Harold Ford Jr, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell.
But Obama has stated that the examination of Mitt Romney's business career at Bain Capital was exactly what his campaign would be about.
On CNN last night, Gingrich added that he was 'surprised' that the president was using these type of attacks, frankly stating that they "didn't work" for his campaign or Governor Perry's presidential campaign.
"One thing we discovered we could never make clear an attack on a particular case, and Romney's ability to say no this is about free enterprise," he said. "And the average American looked up and said, 'it's about free enterprise.' And it turned out that particular argument simply doesn't work."
Gingrich, however, won the Republican Primary in South Carolina after he starting running the anti-Bain ads. But Gingrich's goal may have not had the intended effect. The Examiner's Philip Klein argued at the time that by bringing up Romney's career at Bain Capitol, Gingrich was also attacking Romney's inevitability. Romney, Gingrich argued, had a soft spot that the Obama campaign would exploit which made him unsuitable as a Republican nominee.
Gingrich's attacks, however, sparked backlash from conservative pundits and journalists, who accused him of parroting liberal attacks on private business and private equity firms. A frustrated Gingrich watched as Romney's business record became synonymous with American capitalism and the private sector. Gingrich, it appeared, was joining critics of the free market and private businesses. After these connection was made, the Bain attacks lost their bite at the ballot box in the Republican primary.
Thus far in the national campaign President Obama's attacks are having about the same impact. As Reuters reported on Friday, Romney's poll numbers continue to rise in spite of the Obama campaign's attacks.
If these attacks continue to backfire, the president has lost one of his greatest talking points against Romney.