I’m not in the business of dispensing political advice, not least to the president of the United States. But the Beltway wisdom on the Bain attacks, including the “wisdom” being dispensed by Democrats, from Cory Booker to former President Bill Clinton to the inside-the-beltway media, is wrong about Bain.
The Bain line of attack is working. You may not know that in New York, where lots of us know, like, and went to school with people who now work on Wall Street. It may not be popular with people who graduated from colleges where upwards of half the graduates wind up working in finance, private equity and the like. But in the rust belt, it’s exactly the right strategy. Don’t ask me, ask a pollster:
Across the 12 battleground states the monthly poll surveys, 47% of likely voters said they agreed with the statement that private equity firms “care only about profits and short-term gains for investors. When they come in, workers get laid off, benefits disappear and pensions are cut. Investors walk off with big returns, and working folks get stuck holding the bag.”
By contrast, 38% agreed that “private investment and equity firms help the American economy grow. They launch new companies and rebuild existing ones, including some of the biggest employers in America. Their work has created millions of jobs, and will help drive America’s recovery.”
That 9-percentage-point margin swelled to 16 percentage points in Ohio, where Obama campaign aides hope that attacks against Romney’s record in private equity will prove potent. The argument carried somewhat less weight in Florida, and was even less useful in Colorado and Virginia, two states where economic conditions are better and Democrats are more likely to be college-educated, white-collar professionals than blue-collar workers. In those latter two states, the two statements drew roughly even levels of support.
And let’s not forget where the Bain line of attack originated: with a super PAC friendly to one Newt Gingrich. That PAC produced a 28-minute ad that was some of the most arresting television of the Republican primary. Let’s take a walk down memory lane...
A pro-Gingrich “super PAC” is planning to air a blistering new attack video in South Carolina on Mitt Romney, depicting the GOP presidential front-runner as a corporate “raider” whose firm “destroyed the dreams of thousands of Americans” by buying up companies and firing its workers.
The film, titled “King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” — was made by a former Romney advertising adviser. Its contents mirror attacks that have been made for months by political surrogates of President Barack Obama on Romney’s years as the chief officer of the Bain Capital investment firm.
“For the first time, this film will show what Bain Capital actually did,” said Rick Tyler, a senior adviser to Winning Our Future, a pro-Gingrich super PAC that acquired the rights to the movie on Friday. The super PAC is posting a two-minute trailer from the 27-minute film on a website Saturday.
“They targeted companies … they raided them … and thousands of workers lost their jobs. This is not capitalism. This is predatory,” Tyler said.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, responded Saturday: “It’s puzzling to see Speaker Gingrich and his supporters continue their attacks on free enterprise. This is the type of criticism we’ve come to expect from President Obama and his left-wing allies at MoveOn.org. Unlike President Obama and Speaker Gingrich, Mitt Romney spent his career in business and knows what it will take to turn around our nation’s bad economy.”
The pro-Gingrich super PAC’s plans to air excerpts from the movie in South Carolina represents a major escalation in the war of rival super PACs that is shaping the GOP race.
Of course, the ad didn’t help Gingrich win the GOP nomination. But it’s arguable that it did contribute to Romney losing the primaries in Florida and South Carolina, the latter of which Newt won. And in his concession speech, this is what Romney had to say:
“When my opponents attack success and free enterprise they are not only attacking me, they are attacking every person who dreams of a better person. He’s attacking you, I will support you I will help you have a better future,” Romney said, hinting at a new line of attack that the campaign is likely to adopt going into Florida.
While Gingrich was never mentioned after Romney’s opening line, a good chunk of his speech referred to the former speaker.
“The Republican Party doesn’t demonize prosperity. We celebrate success in our party,” he said. “And let me be clear, if Republican leaders want to join this president in demonizing success and disparaging conservative values, then they’re not going to be fit to be our nominee.”
And by opponents, he meant Gingrich. And that super PAC ad. Those attacks were effective then. Polls show they will be effective in targeted locations now, where voters are still getting to know Romney (only political junkies know all of the info on him) and where opinions of him are still being formed. In the rust belt? Yeah. I’d run those Bain attack ads.Telling voters who are insecure about jobs that one of the candidates was a corporate raider who fired people isn’t bad campaign strategy. It’s campaign strategy 101.
But again, I’m not here to dispense advice.