The week before last was a terrible one for Mitt Romney. Everyone said so. The Obama attacks on his career at Bain Capital were taking huge chunks out of his credibility. The bad jobs report for June diverted attention for only a minute, then attention snapped back to Bain and Mitt's taxes. They dominated the Sunday talk shows, and the early week's coverage, as liberal sites gloated over the hole Romney was digging, and the brilliance and moxie of Obama's paid killers, and how Romney would never crawl out.
Too bad that pesky New York Times/CBS News poll had to come out on Thursday, saying that after these terrible weeks, Romney was gaining, closing the gap in Virginia and other key swing states; creeping up in Pennsylvania and Michigan; and now led Obama in the general matchup, if barely.
How could this happen? Two things: First, in the absence of facts to the contrary, the press will report what it thinks ought to happen. Second, the press takes its cues from liberal outlets, which assumed the Bain attacks had to be working, because what they were saying was just what they thought. For weeks, the New York Times, New York, the New Yorker, etc., swooned at the blows Obama dealt to the business mentality.
Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast said that Romney's career at Bain was "unpatriotic," because business itself was so anti-American that even not breaking its laws was an immoral enterprise. "It may be legal to take every tax break you can, to try to claim a $77,000 deduction for your horse. But it is not right." Never mind that Romney didn't actually take the deduction (yet), or that Obama's buddies and bundlers do similar things all the time. It was John Kerry who bought a $7.5 million yacht in the recession and docked it in Rhode Island to avoid a Massachusetts tax.
Some liberals refused to believe in the polls, claiming the attacks were successes that hadn't yet happened, the softening-up stage of a brilliant two-pronged offensive, to show its true hand in due course. To this, William Galston, playing the role at the New Republic of adult supervision, parried, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."
The attack failed, as pollster Scott Rasmussen tells us, because it failed to raise doubts about Romney's character, because voters care less for the past than they do for the future, and because Obama and his supporters are on the wrong side of a 62-30 divide. As Rasmussen says, Americans want both growth and fairness, but when asked to choose between the two they will pick growth 2-to-1. After all, without growth in the private economy there is little to be fair about. Above all, they want a leader who shares their priorities, and in this, Obama's attacks on Romney as a man mad for profits have been playing an unforeseen role.
"Profit" may be a dirty word at the New Yorker, but Obama is unwittingly defining Romney as a man who understands money, as compared with a community organizer who understands how to triple the debt. Obama's assaults have raised doubts about Romney, Rasmussen writes, "but by highlighting his role as a venture capitalist, the attacks also have reinforced the belief that Romney sees economic growth as his top priority. There is nothing better for the challenger than a race where he is seen as the candidate of economic growth."
Thus, the attacks on Romney and Bain may be helping to elect him. As someone once said, "Bring it on."
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to TheWeekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."