Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who survived a tough recall election last month and has become a hero to many of his fellow Republicans, has some advice for Mitt Romney: Get on offense and stay on offense. “Never fight a battle on your heels,” he says.
As Walker offered this advice Friday, Romney was trying to get off his heels. In a round of television interviews, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee lashed back at President Obama’s campaign for suggesting that he may have committed a felony by not being entirely truthful about when he relinquished control at Bain Capital.
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Romney’s finances and tenure at Bain dominated the campaign week, despite the fact that it came immediately after the third tepid jobs report in three months that should have put the president on the defensive. Instead, the Obama team kept the pressure on Romney, taunting him to release more years of tax returns and hectoring him over the private equity company he founded. The week ended with the president and Romney hurling questions and accusations at each other.
Republicans are nervous about what some see as the Romney campaign’s relative passivity in the face of the onslaught by the Obama team. The president’s forces have spent almost $25 million on ads this spring and summer, attacking Romney over his role at Bain and the outsourcing that was done by some of the companies in which Bain had invested. Overall, they have vastly outspent Romney on television.
Romney is at a financial disadvantage right now, despite the fact that he’s raising money faster than the president. By the rules of the game, Obama is spending money raised for the primaries. For Romney, that primary season account is significantly depleted, because of the length of the GOP nomination battle. Campaign advisers say much of the money he is raising now is for the general election.
That doesn’t do much to tamp down worries among Republicans that Obama will effectively disqualify Romney in the eyes of many voters before the two national conventions. Romney advisers point to polls that show there has been little movement in the overall race, despite the pounding from the Obama campaign, as evidence that the president is not making headway with his attacks. But Romney’s decision to fire back on Friday, as well as a sharply negative ad unveiled that morning, suggest that he and his team have reached the same conclusion as the Wisconsin governor — that it’s time to get on offense.
Walker isn’t convinced that the Bain-related attacks will take root. But to the extent that they fill a vacuum created by Romney’s failure either to fight back or more aggressively talk about economic and fiscal issues, the governor sees reason to worry.
“The president’s team desperately does not want to run on his record, so they are desperately trying to have it about anything other than his record,” Walker said by telephone from Williamsburg, where he is attending the National Governors Association meeting. He added of Romney: “He’s got to be forceful about fighting back.”