The new conventional wisdom is that President Obama and his allies are turning GOP rival Mitt Romney's lucrative business experience at Bain Capital into a potent campaign-seeking missile. Romney's team is pushing back, pointing to polls showing the race narrowing despite the Obama campaign outspending Romney on TV ads. Yet the campaign's "What, me worry?" attitude doesn't jibe with its actions, which suggest Romney's strategists are in full-scale crisis mode — the candidate hastily scheduled interviews on all five major news networks on July 13 to insist he left Bain in 1999, not 2002, as SEC filings suggest, and to demand an apology from Obama. Should Romney listen to his internal pollsters and relax about Bain?
Yes. Romney is protesting too much: Each Romney rebuttal or demand for a retraction or apology over Bain "has a certain logic behind it," says Joshua Green at BusinessWeek. He really can't afford to be painted as an out-of-touch rich guy who profits off giving American jobs away. But cumulatively, Romney's consultant-approved but ineffective counterattacks are riskier than the Bain hits themselves: Voters might "conclude, based on their overall impression of his squealing and inability to get results, that Romney is a wimp."
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No. Team Romney isn't hitting back hard enough: Instead of "whining about the other guy treating him badly," Romney needs to fix the "Death Star" he used to "rain down holy hell" on his GOP primary opponents, says Byron York at The Washington Examiner. His hands are tied a bit by federal rules barring him from spending his general-election war chest until he becomes the official GOP nominee on Aug. 27, but if Romney and his allies don't buck up and start hitting the president harder, soon, "the Obama campaign will run over him."
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Voters probably won't care about Bain: Romney's best bet is to defend Bain the best that he can, then quietly move on, says Nate Silver at The New York Times. The Bain attacks aren't really moving the needle one way or the other, and most voters see Bain as a neutral factor. But Team Romney's inept damage control, treating his Bain record as an embarrassment, "could change the nature of how [the attacks] are perceived by the public going forward," and not in a good way. Will it? Stay tuned to the polls.
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