Today at Politico, the left-wing site does a fairly good job of covering the blowback the Obama campaign is facing in its own party over attacks on Bain Capital, a venture capitalist firm once successfully run by Mitt Romney. After the Cory Booker fiasco on "Meet the Press," followed by the Newark Mayor's widely ridiculed "hostage video" (which was selectively-edited by Team Obama,) the central issue of the Obama re-election strategy is also splitting the party writ large:
One prominent business official, who asked not to be identified, put it this way: “It’s demonization of capitalism. And that makes a lot of Democrats uncomfortable and Cory Booker’s one of them. … I think that anybody with half a brain knows that the story is far more complicated and, in fact, Bain and private equity generally have made some positive contributions.”
“You know, they’re known as a very good company,” one Democratic operative said of Bain. “[They] help a lot of businesses around the country. Smart Dems don’t want to be anti-business.”
The private-equity community is not a major source of donations for Democrats at this point — but criticism of it has become entangled in perceptions of Wall Street and the business community at large.
Senators such Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, for instance, are among those who still take in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the financial services sector, and would be loath to weigh in.
So will some Democratic governors and other statewide officials, for whom private-equity investments are drivers of state pension funds.
Democrats are also eating their own. Harold Ford Jr., once considered the rising star of the Democrat party and another critic of Obama's Bain attacks, is now being demeaned for daring to speak out. Also in today's Politico piece:
If senators in target states were denouncing the Bain message, it would be more of a concern, said a senior Democrat who added that Ford, out of office for years and on TV almost exclusively, “is irrelevant.”
Obama has staked his entire re-election on class warfare and envy and the demonization of the wealthy -- who also create the jobs, contribute to Democrats, and even drive many of the state pensions Democrats hold so dear. This cynical approach -- which as recently as yesterday Obama doubled down on -- is not only dividing Democrats, it's also exposing the President's executive incompetence when it comes to managing his own party.
Jennifer Rubin counts the ways in which the Obama campaign has blown the Bain attacks:
First, the original Bain attack ad was weak, easily rebutted because Romney was not at the steel company at the time of the layoffs depicted in the ad. To make matters worse, the day the ad was released Obama was fundraising among his group of investment bankers, resulting in widespread ridicule in the media. And don’t forget Obama’s former car czar also blasted the ad.
Then along comes Booker and his forced recantation. That only highlighted his searing indictment on “MTP.” Because it wasn’t, in the Obama team’s view, sufficiently convincing, it necessitated the edit.
This clown show resembles more a Communist propaganda operation (shall Booker next be airbrushed out of all photos with Obama?) than a supposedly formidable presidential campaign.
The Bain attack now is largely in tatters, savaged by Democrats who don’t want to be the Occupy political party, by the media (which has begun to denigrate the Obama team’s prowess) and of course, by Romney, who has turned the tables comparing his real experience in the private sector with Obama’s crony capitalism.
Moreover, Democrats, including Obama loyalists like his former Car Czar, see the Obama re-election plan of class warfare as an existential threat to the party as a whole. If, as Rubin points out, Democrats are seen as the "occupy" party, the anti-capitalist/free market party, it's not only a wild turn to the left for the party but also the undermining of the contribution base they rely on. There's only so much money you can bleed from Hollywood and unions (both private and public), and with the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision that rightly extends free speech rights to corporations, a major fundraising advantage for Republicans could develop due to well-funded corporations which also see Obama's attacks on them as existential.
Polls show that Romney and Obama are pretty much tied right now with the President possibly enjoying a small lead. The problem for Obama, though, is that he's stuck in the mid-forties, which is a dangerous place for a known incumbent who can't run on a failed record. The only way Obama can change voters' minds is to use the "the devil you know" approach, which means toxifying Romney into something unelectable. Obviously, Bain Capital is the vehicle Obama intends to use to do this.
The problem with this approach is that the roll-out has been so flat-footed, it's causing Obama to lose one of his primary strengths: the (false) perception of competence. Before ripping into Bain, the Obama camp obviously didn’t have their ducks in a row, not only in making sure fellow Democrats were on board with the talking points but also with respect to the facts. The first Bain attack ad was about something that happened after Romney had already left the company.
The media will carry all kinds of water for Obama, no question about that; but one thing they won't cover up is incompetence from a campaign -- and right now the lean, mean Chicago campaign machine is the gang that can't shoot straight.
These are the crucial months for the President. He must define his opponent as unelectable now. We have a long way to go, but as of now, the Bain game plan is only aiding Romney in defining Obama as what he is: anti-free market, a bully, hypocritical, incompetent, and arrogant.