One week after Newark Mayor Cory Booker lit a Beltway firestorm over the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital, the Washington Post reports that Democrats are mostly united behind the strategy and eager to present the Republican nominee as a destructive tool of financial interests:
Democratic leaders, in numerous interviews over the last week, said they are hearing little or no resistance among the party faithful in their states to a strategy that Republicans have characterized as anti-capitalist. And Obama has no plans to back off; his campaign will roll out more stories in the coming weeks that advisers said will again show Bain Capital as a corporate menace that protects profits at the expense of people and jobs.
“He wanted to have this conversation,” Jim Burn, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said of Romney, the likely GOP nominee. “We’re going to have it. There should be no hesitation or equivocation.”
What’s important to remember about the attack on Bain Capital is that it isn’t the sum total of the Obama campaign’s assault on Mitt Romney. Instead, it’s an opening gambit meant to center the debate on what Romney says is his chief qualification for the presidency — his ability to create jobs using his private-sector know-how. And while the campaign has been criticized for the move, it's hard to say that it hasn't been successful; the argument over Bain has served to highlight the extent to which private equity is meant to maximize profits for shareholders. In other words, job creation is a plus, but it isn't the purpose of the endeavor.
I mentioned this last week, but I think the Obama campaign will soon shift into a second phase of attacks on Romney, with a focus on his time as Massachusetts governor. Already, in a speech last week to supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, President Obama noted the degree to which Romney “doesn’t really talk about what he did in Massachusetts.” Over the course of the summer, it’s likely that the Obama campaign will move to highlight the weak job growth that characterized Romney’s time in Massachusetts. During his tenure, the state ranked 47th in job creation, which was significantly lower than nearby states such as New York, and dramatically lower than the national average. It’s also likely that the campaign will point to Romney’s education cuts as evidence that if elected, he will attempt to cut taxes and balance the budget on the backs of ordinary people.
The goal of all of this is to destroy any notion that Romney has special insight into fixing the economy. I’m not sure where the Obama campaign goes next after this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a move to position Romney as a throwback to the last Republican who occupied the White House. In April, Obama suggested the comparison with his attack on the Romney/Ryan budgets, and there’s plenty of room to extend the parallel; not only is it effective — voters still don’t like Bush — but with Romney's agenda of massive tax cuts for the rich, it has the virtue of being true.