The Washington Post

The wrong way to attack Romney

The latest Obama Web video is a great example of the centrality that Bain Capital will play in the campaign’s attempt to define Mitt Romney. This attack is more aggressive than anything we’ve seen so far. To borrow from one of the profiled workers, Romney is a “reverse Robin Hood,” who takes from the middle-class and gives to the rich, with no concern or regard for the lives of ordinary people.

The Obama campaign comes close to blaming Romney’s career at Bain for the devastation of entire communities, which — to me at least — seems like a stretch. In fact, I have my doubts about whether this will be an effective mode of attack. Yes, Romney has the appearance and affect of a wealthy patrician, and this helps the Obama campaign to paint him as aloof and distant from the concerns of regular people. But as much as we obsess over it in Washington, there’s no proof that voters are looking for someone who relates to them. What they want is someone who can fix the economy, and, at the moment, voters see Romney as best equipped to do so. Of the 79 percent of Americans who rank weak economic growth as an important problem, according to a recent Gallup survey, 52 percent favor Romney over Obama. Likewise, on the question of who can best deal with debt and deficits – which is often a proxy concern for the economy – Romney leads Obama by 15 percentage points.

Attacking Romney on Bain may convince some voters that they don’t like the Republican nominee, but I’m not sure it will push them to question Romney’s competence. The best strategy for that might be to highlight the extent to which Romney is pushing to restore the (deeply unpopular) Bush agenda. So far, however, President Obama has been reluctant to bring his predecessor into the action.


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