Yesterday, the Boston Globe revisited a story it had covered 10 years ago and reported that a few SEC documents suggested that Mitt Romney was involved in Bain Capital for three years after he said he had left the company. The Obama campaign seized on the story and almost immediately overplayed its hand. The campaign said the “revelations” showed that Romney was either a liar or a criminal. They suggested that Romney may have committed a felony in filing the SEC documents. The over-the-top charge blunted the thrust of the attack. It also showed the campaign is desperate to shift the focus away from Obama’s failed record.
The entire “Romney-was-still-at-Bain-after-1999” canard has been thoroughly debunked. The Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler did an excellent analysis of that, as well as the Obama campaign’s “felony” claim. Reporters who aren’t named Dylan Byers at Politico seem to have concluded that there really isn’t much new information in the Globe‘s rehashed story. What interests me, though, is how quickly the Obama campaign went right to “he’s a liar or a criminal” line. Its only July, but they are throwing around the kind of accusation that usually arises in October.
Despite all the happy talk, the Obama campaign clearly knows it is in trouble. Today’s daily tracking poll from Gallup showed Romney and Obama tied at 46%, among registered voters. Virtually every recent poll has Obama topping out at around 47%, even if they show him up a couple points. All of this has happened despite Obama having a 3-1 spending advantage over Romney the past few months. As Romney has out-raised Obama the last two months, this spending advantage won’t last.
Sprinkle in a couple more bad jobs reports and its easy to understand that panic may be setting in over at Obama HQ. The problem with the campaign’s “liar or criminal” charge is that it stepped on the story as it was unfolding. While its now clear that the Globe‘s bombshell was something of a dud, it raised some issues that, at least on the surface, Romney needs to address probably at some point. It likely does seem weird to some folks, who obviously don’t have to deal with SEC filings or financial regulations, that someone can be listed as a CEO of company in a filing and not be actively involved in managing the company. This, and the entire Bain story, is something Romney will have to address.
But, the Obama campaign diverted most attention away from this and onto the question of whether Romney was a “liar or a criminal.” It was such a strong claim that reporters had to delve into that, rather than the underlying story. The facts on that charge were so clear-cut that the Washington Post awarded the Obama campaign 3 “Pinnochios” and said the campaign was “blowing smoke” on the issue.
The charge was a misstep borne out of panic. The Obama campaign is so desperate to change the subject from the economy and other issues that they seized on the Globe‘s hit-job and overplayed their hand. It should be an interesting–and entertaining–Fall.
Follow me on Twitter here.