Pundits keep talking about the success (or lack thereof) of the Obama camp's attacks on Bain Capital. A recent Gallup poll reveals some very important information with regard to that concept.
When it comes to such economic issues as the federal budget deficit, the economy, creating jobs, and taxes, Romney beats Obama in terms of his perceived ability to tackle those issues. However, when it comes to personal characteristics like likability, being honest and trustworthy, and understanding the daily problems Americans face, Romney loses to Obama by significant margins.
The Bain Capital attacks have two purposes. Part of the goal is to destroy Romney's economic credibility as a job creator. That effort has been largely unsuccessful, mostly because it is quite difficult for a president presiding over an 8.2% unemployment rate to point the finger at someone else's job creation potential. Not to mention the fact that at the end of the day, Romney has the solid business experience that our President lacks and Americans value, including many success stories of which to speak.
However, the second goal of the Bain attacks is to tear into Romney's character, to paint him as an out-of-touch, cold-hearted businessman who lacks empathy for the plight of regular Americans and will compromise their well-being for the sake of his own success. I would argue that the character component of the Bain attacks has been somewhat successful, and Gallup's July 24 poll backs up my conclusion.
Obama cannot win this election by attacking Romney on economic issues. It simply can't happen, because our President is attacking from a place of extraordinary policy weakness, before the backdrop of flocks of people leaving the labor force, high unemployment, and a ballooning debt and deficit.
Obama's only option is to utilize his campaigning skills and play up his likability as the candidate many voters would still prefer to talk about their problems with over a Saturday night beer. In 2008, Obama won because many genuinely believed he was listening to their concerns, related to their struggles, and was an all-around likable guy they could "talk" to.
Like it or not, Gallup's July 24 poll reveals that when it comes to personal characteristics, many voters still see Obama as the preferred option. If you think the Bain attacks haven't helped in that department, you are wrong.
Whether or not perceived likability and empathy will ultimately take priority over economic issues remains to be seen. In fact, the aforementioned Gallup poll places Romney in the lead over Obama in terms of who "can get things done."
In other words, the guy many voters like most as a person isn't the guy they think can fix our ailing economy and make things happen. What will matter more? We are soon to find out.
One thing remains clear: Romney absolutely must own the narrative on all fronts moving forward--that includes his record at Bain and the Olympics, his economic plan, and who he is as a person underneath all those policy layers.
Never--ever--allow the opposition to define who you are.