When it comes to the GOP battle over Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, it appears New Hampshire was only the beginning.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is renewing his criticism of the former Massachusetts governor as a “vulture capitalist,” arguing that Romney is trying to “paper over” the details of his tenure at the helm of Bain Capital.
“There’s a real difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism,” Perry told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity Tuesday night. “Venture capitalism we like. Vulture capitalism, no. And the fact of the matter is that he’s going to have to face up to this at some time or another, and South Carolina is as good a place to draw that line in the sand as any.”
Perry cited two companies in Gaffney and Georgetown, S.C., that he said had lost jobs while the venture capital firm took in millions of dollars. He accused Romney and Bain of “picking their bones clean” rather than working to “clean up those companies, save those jobs.”
”That’s not what we’re looking for in a president of the United States,” he said. “We’re looking for someone that knows how to build jobs, create jobs. And that’s what I’ve done in the state of Texas. So there’s no use trying to paper this over. That is a problem for Mitt, and he’s going to have to face it.”
Perry’s criticism – like the shots at Romney’s record taken by former House speaker Newt Gingrich and others – appears designed to appeal to voters who have been particularly hard-hit by the country’s economic downturn.
A look at the numbers reveals that those attacks may have blunted Romney’s momentum in New Hampshire, but also that their impact may be limited in South Carolina.
Twenty-six percent of New Hampshire GOP primary voters made an annual income of $50,000 or less -- and among them, Romney ran neck-and-neck with Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), with each taking 31 percent.
Romney performed better among those earning $50,000 to $99,000, taking 35 percent, and even better among those earning $100,000 a year, who he swept with 47 percent of the vote.
A CNN/Time/Opinion Research poll earlier this month showed Romney besting the field across all income levels. He took 36 percent among those earning $50,000 or less and 39 percent among those with income of more than $50,000.
Those numbers could change in South Carolina if Perry, Gingrich and others continue to train their fire on Romney’s tenure at Bain. But the 2008 South Carolina primary exit poll¿ shows that voters earning less than $50,000 a year comprise a similar share of the electorate in the Palmetto State as they did in New Hampshire – 28 percent of 2008 primary voters earned less than $50,000. (In New Hampshire, the number stood at 26 percent.)
That suggests that even if the Bain attacks continue, their reach at the polls could be limited.
On the other hand, South Carolina has a higher unemployment rate than either New Hampshire or Iowa, which could give Perry’s attacks greater resonance.
South Carolina has the country’s ninth-highest unemployment rate, at 9.9 percent. New Hampshire has the fourth-lowest, at 5.2 percent, while Iowa’s is the sixth-lowest, at 5.7 percent.