One of the key questions about the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain years has been this: Given that swing voters seem willing to accept Romney’s argument that his business background equips him with economic competence that can be applied to the presidency, how can the Obama camp make its critique of that background matter to voters in the context of the campaign’s argument over how to fix the economy going forward? How can the Obama campaign make the Bain years relevant in voters’ minds to what Romney would do as president and how he’d approach the job?
The Obama campaign’s first answer to these questions is this new ad running in nine swing states, which suggests that the attacks on Bain won’t be letting up anytime soon:
“What a president believes matters. Mitt Romney’s companies were pioneers in outsourcing U.S. jobs to low wage countries. He supports tax breaks for companies that shift jobs overseas. President Obama believes in insourcing. He fought to save the U.S auto industry and favors tax cuts for companies that bring jobs home. Outsourcing versus insourcing. It matters.”
The spot continues to inaccurately suggest that the bulk of the offshoring took place while Romney ran Bain. In political terms, the key to the new ad is that it broadens the attack on Bain to a contrast of philosophies and visions/policy prescriptions for the economy. The touting of Obama’s rescue of the auto industry is meant to contrast Romney’s faith in the unfettered free market as a cure all — which is dramatized negatively by offshoring — with a successful example of the type of government intervention in the economy to help shore up the middle class that Romney decries. The policy contrast is also present in the ad’s touting of Obama’s proposal to give tax credits to companies that bring jobs back to America.
By the way: That last contrast does have meaningful policy significance, because Obama’s insourcing proposal is set to get a vote in the Senate this month. How will Romney and Republicans respond?
It looks like the attacks on Bain are unfolding in phases. The first round sought to establish an image of Romney as that guy who got obscenely rich while the bottom fell out from under the middle class — an effort to establish who Romney is, his values, where he comes from, and how he sees the world. The new phase is about establishing that background as the prism through which voters are meant to understand Romney’s policy preferences and priorities — which Jonathan Chait recently summed up as “Romney’s fealty to the Bush-era low-tax, anti-regulatory ideology and the radical Paul Ryan plan.”
In other words, the Obama campaign’s next challenge is to reinforce the idea that Romney’s Bain background has direct bearing on what he would do as president — and who his policies would really help. This aspect of the case against Romney will grow broader and more detailed as voters begin to pay more attention. That pundits and strategists are now deciding that the Bain attacks are working will only embolden the Obama camp to continue with this strategy.
* Vanity Fair digs into Romney’s offshore accounts: Dems are circulating the magazine’s deep dive into Romney’s offshore accounts, tax loopholes, and carried interest. The article suggests that Romney is the poster boy for a kind of financial behavior that pushes the boundaries into “murky” and “gray” areas — words the article uses frequently — and sketches out the degree to which the Romney camp has not been forthcoming about the details of his financial holdings.
The Obama camp will use this to continue raising questions about Romney’s commitment to the middle class and whose interests he’d really represent as president.
* The Romney campaign’s opacity: Alex Burns on the Romney camp’s lack of transparency about his finances:
In some ways, it’s a reflection of Romney’s larger approach to the 2012 campaign: accepting a certain amount of heat over his lack of detail and transparency, in order to deny his critics and political opponents information they might use to attack him.
* GOPers boast Obamacare ruling will help in Senate races: Caitlin Huey-Burns reports that GOP strategists are salivating at the opportunity to paint Obamacare as a massive “tax increase,” which they say will be a boon in multiple Senate races.
Of course, this puts these candidates at odds with the GOP presidential nominee, who doesn’t believe the mandate is a tax. It’s also worth noting that in one red state where the Dem is going on offense on health care — Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota — her GOP opponent Rick Berg has now declared he supports some of the law’s individual provisions. More on this later.
* Has Romney camp decided health care is a loser? In the wake of the Romney campaign’s claim yesterday that the individual mandate is not a tax, after all, Josh Kraushaar argues that the Romney camp has effectively cried uncle in the health care wars, and has decided Romney will be better off if he avoides the issue.
ICYMI: My three reasons why Dems should not shrink from the next battle over Obamacare.
* Public sharply divided on health ruling: Yet another poll, this one from the Post, finds the public evenly divided on the Supreme Court ruling. This finding, on how independents view Obama’s and Romney’s approaches to solving the health care crisis, is key:
One potential trouble spot for both campaigns, however, is that independents tilt away from both approaches. Independents lead away from Obama’s plans: 38 percent favorable to 52 percent unfavorable. The percentage of independents with negative views of Romney’s plans outnumbers positive impressions by twenty percentage points (46 to 26 percent, with a sizable 28 percent expressing no opinion).
Independents don’t like Obama’s overall approach, but other polls have shown that independents favor the key individual provisions Obama and Dems are championing. Only one-fourth of independents view Romney’s approach favorably, with many still undecided — meaning there’s still room for either side to gain ground.
* What if SCOTUS ruling is helping Dem fundraising, too? The Romney campaign boasted endlessly about how much it raised off of #FullRepeal, but the DCCC is also claiming to have done quite well:
DCCC Chairman Steve Israel announced today that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has raised $2.3 million from nearly 65,000 grassroots donations since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act. The average contribution was $35, and Saturday was the single biggest grassroots’ fundraising day in DCCC history.
The haul suggests the ruling could also be energizing the Dem base.
* Another GOP governor strikes great blow for states’ rights: Iowa governor Terry Branstad joins the ranks of GOP governors who will opt out of the Medicaid expansion in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling. For more on the larger dynamic, see David Dayen’s argument that it’s folly to imagine these governors will ultimately embrace the expansion, given their ideological commitments, leaving only one way to expand Medicaid in these states — oust them in elections.
* And Republicans will keep up repeal push throughout election: An interesting point from David Atkins on why Republicans will keep up the push for full repeal, and how it could backfire in an election about the economy:
Republicans have spent so much time inflaming their base by painting the Affordable Care Act as a Communist takeover, that they don’t have much choice but to make full repeal of the law a rallying cry through November. The more they talk about it, the more voters will see Republicans as unfocused on their principal concerns.