The Obama campaign is starting to roll out its attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, including the predictable emotional testimony from workers who were laid off by companies Bain was trying to save from collapse. The campaign’s newest ad is powerful, though it’s already old news if you followed Newt Gingrich’s nearly identical attacks on Romney during the primaries.
But while Romney seemed blindsided by Gingrich’s (unsuccessful) anti-Bain assault, he’s clearly ready for this attack line from Obama. There are already doubts being raised about the facts in the ad, which implies that Romney was at Bain when GST Steel went under. But as the Christian Science Monitor reports, he had already left the company:
Plus, the ad elides some facts: Romney left Bain shortly after it acquired GST Steel, though he continued to receive profits from Bain payouts. He wasn’t around when GST went under. Also, it was an era when cheap foreign imports were hitting U.S. steel firms hard, in general. It’s not clear whether GST would have survived in any case.
And some conservatives say the Obama team rolled out this line of attack too early. It gives the Romney camp plenty of time to respond prior to November.
The Romney campaign also has the advantage of a good counter-argument against Obama, who, as it so happens, also ordered GM and Chrysler to close thousands of dealerships during the auto bailout. Jim Geraghty writes that the Obama campaign may have a hard time pushing back on this:
I’m sure Obama fans will insist, “but the layoffs under our guy are completely different!” They’ll insist that in order to preserve the entire institution during a time when its continued operation was jeopardized, it was necessary to lay off certain branches and employees… which is, of course, precisely what Bain Capital was doing, or at least what the management of Bain Capital believed it was doing.
The line between heartless, cruel sacrifices of hardworking Americans to corporate greed and necessary sacrifices to ensure continued viability of a company in a competitive market is often in the eye of the beholder.
This could be why the Obama campaign is rolling out the Bain attack so early. They probably realize that Romney has a pretty strong counterattack, and know the anti-Bain argument will only get weaker as the election season progresses and Romney becomes more of a known entity. Right now, Obama hopes he can put that “Romney is a callous rich guy” image in the minds of voters before Romney is able to define himself to the public.
But this was also supposed to be one of Obama’s strongest lines of attack against Romney. The fact that Obama’s playing this card so early in the election, when many voters aren’t even paying attention yet, doesn’t seem to bode well for his campaign. He’s been able to successfully dominate the news cycle with one distraction issue after another, but how many more tricks does he have until that bag is empty?