When Mitt Romney’s GOP primary rivals began attacking him late last year over his record at Bain Capital, many Republicans argued that this could be a good thing in the long run, because it meant this attack line was getting fully aired out before the general election got under way.
But the Obama campaign believes this story has not been told to swing voters yet, and it will be central to efforts to define Romney early on, just as general election voters are starting to tune in — and even more crucially, it will be central to defining Romney’s vision of the country’s economic future.
The Obama campaign is going up with a hard hitting two-minute ad in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia on GST Steel, a Kansas City company that Bain acquired a majority stake in, leading to hundreds of layoffs and at least $12 million in Bain profits:
The ad is accompanied by new Web site, RomneyEconomics.com.
This isn’t just about attacking Romney’s wealth and character. It’s about turning Romney’s number one asset — the aura of economic competence created by his successful business career — into a liability, about painting a frightening picture of his vision of our economic future as one that would be founded on a flimsy foundation of unbound Wall Street profiteering and risk-taking. It’s designed to sow doubts about whether a President Romney would truly have the economic security of middle class Americans at heart, and to make him the walking embodiment of the economic behavior that led to the meltdown and to years of widespread economic misery in its wake.
The message is about fear: Romney = middle class insecurity.
* GOP confusion on gay rights: This exchange between Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus and David Gregory on Meet the Press yesterday deserves more attention:
GREGORY: Do you believe that gays and lesbians in America deserve equal rights?
PRIEBUS: I think they deserve equal rights in regard to, say, discrimination in the workplace, issues such as, as Mitt Romney has pointed out numerous times, hospital visitations. I mean I think that for the sake of dignity and respect, sure. But if you’re defining marriage as a civil right, then no. I don’t believe that people who are same sex should be able to married under our laws.
Really? Does that mean the RNC chair now supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which will get Senate hearings in the next few weeks?
If so, that would be interesting; Romney, like many Republicans, opposes ENDA. After previously supporting federal action against same sex discrimination in the workplace, Romney flip-flopped on the issue in 2007 and claimed he only backs action against it on the state level.
Perhaps Priebus would say he only supports state-level action, too. But Republicans continue to back amending the Constitution to bar gay marriage, which would make gay rights a federal matter. So more clarification is in order here. More broadly, this illustrates again that Republicans are having difficulty finding their footing on gay rights as the cultural landscape shifts under their feet.
* Dems no longer fear culture wars: Relatedly, Rick Klein pivots off Newsweek’s new “first gay president” cover to argue that Dems no longer fear the culture wars and are happy to go on offense on a number of social issues, because the cultural shift is moving their way.
As Klein notes, it’s no longer clear whether the fact that issues like gay marriage fire up elements of the conservative base is helpful to Romney.
* Obama seeks to soothe black ministers: The president personally reached out to African American ministers to reassure them his gay marriage announcement was not an attack on religious liberty, which is perhaps a sign that Obama and his advisers remain worried that the announcement could dampen enthusiasm among black voters.
* Romney out of step with public on gay unions: A new New York Times/CBS poll finds that 62 percent support either gay marriage or civil unions — both of which Romney opposes — with only one in three saying they favor no legal recognition of gay unions.
Also: 57 percent say the issue should be left to states — which is at odds with Romney’s backing of an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment..
The number in favor of gay marriage is lower in this poll than in many others, but that seems to be because respondents weren’t asked for a straight Yes or No on whether they favor it.
* J.P. Morgan debacle strengthens case for Wall Street reform: Paul Krugman on how J.P. Morgan’s $2 billion makes a powerful case for more oversight and regulation of Wall Street in order to protect the rest of us, even though the lords of finance are unlikely to be chastened by the larger meaning of the debacle.
As I’ve been saying, the J.P. Morgan tale gives new meaning to Romney’s vow to “get government out of the way” and let the private sector work its magic. This is also the context for the above Bain ad.
* Republicans urge Romney to visit Israel: This is worth keeping an eye on: Leading Republicans want Romney to visit Israel as a candidate, to draw an implicit contrast with Obama’s failure to visit Israel as president. If memory serves, Obama’s decision to make a trip abroad as a candidate in 2008 was widely mocked by Republicans as a sign of his “celeb” egotism run amok.
* Ryan budget still an issue in House races: For a sense of how Ryan’s budget continues to be an issue in the battle for the House, check out Ed O’Keefe’s account of one House GOPer’s frustration with attacks on her over the issue.
The control Ryan has assumed over the GOP’s whole fiscal agenda — and the degree to which Republicans remain convinced it will be a net positive for them politically, because voters will reward them for allegedly being Very Fiscally Serious — remains remarkable.
* And will Rubio successfully sow confusion over immigration? As Sahil Kapur notes, Marco Rubio’s plan to introduce a GOP DREAM Act, and Romney’s likely acceptance of it, are all about sowing confusion over who is on the side of Latinos, and it could very well work if Obama and Dems aren’t prepared with a good response.