Chris Graham: Bain of Romney’s existence
Is the Barack Obama campaign’s full-court press on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and his tax returns fair and balanced? Plenty of ink and cyberspace have been devoted in recent days to answering that question.
What about the impact of the line of attack on the 2012 campaign?
The timing of the attack is key. It’s July, still way, way early to be coming out guns-a-blazin’ with a hot-and-heavy campaign issue. Unless you think it’s the issue that could frame the narrative for the fall campaign, which we have to assume the Obama campaign thinks is the case here.
Republicans don’t win elections because their policies have the support of a majority of American voters. Tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas and the end of government oversight over corporate America as we know it don’t sell well in Middle America. Republicans, when they have success, have been able to make elections about anything and everything else – social and cultural issues (abortion, gay marriage), security (the war on terror) – and also been able to play up Democrats as goofy elitists (John Kerry windsurfing, Michael Dukakis in a tank).
This is where the Obama campaign senses an opening. Romney comes across as a goofy elitist on the level of a Kerry or Dukakis. Whatever is fair to say about the particulars of his time at Bain and his tax returns, the image of him cutting jobs, outsourcing more overseas, claiming tax breaks for his horses, all of that and more, it’s a picture being painted that the Romney camp, and frankly Republicans across the board who had been uneasy to the point of being jittery about Romney all along, doesn’t want to see.
And there’s really nothing that Romney can do at this point to paint a competing mural. My guess is that we won’t see the detailed records that the Obama camp has been demanding, if only because the details related to Romney’s time at Bain and the nuggets in his older tax returns will only add a significant amount of fuel to the soundbite fire.
I’d also guess that a fair reading of the Romney minutiae would probably lead us to conclude that Romney is just your average everyday multimillionaire businessman.
That’s the problem for Romney. The Tea Party base by definition doesn’t trust your average everyday multimillionaire businessman.
They’re not going to suddenly reverse course and embrace Obama, but that’s not what the Obama campaign is trying to do, to get the Tea Party to flip. No, the Obama camp is playing classic Republican politics against the GOP, which has made an art form of dragging elections into the muck with the aim of depressing turnout among voters who end up so disgusted at their candidates that they decide against going out to the polls.
There will still be plenty of Tea Party Republicans voting for Romney in November, no question about that. Six in 10 Romney supporters cite as their key motivation not a vote for Romney but a vote against Obama, and nothing the Obama campaign can do in the next few months is going to change that. How many of those voters peel off and stay home? That’s the big question.