Conventional wisdom suggests the attacks on Bain Capital backfired.
Hitting Mitt Romney from the left — whether done by a candidate or his Super Pac — was beyond the pale. Republicans were offended. It was an attack on capitalism, itself!
Polling seems to back this up.
There is little doubt the attacks, in and of themselves, did backfire. But political analysts are always too quick to judge actions by their immediate results. Sometimes things don’t make sense until much later. And it strikes me that Newt Gingrich might not be where he is today — poised to potentially win the important South Carolina primary — were it not for the attacks.
Consider this: Gingrich left New Hampshire in fifth place — with no reason to be considered a relevant part of the political conversation. And yet, heading into South Carolina, the media portrayed the race as being between Romney and Gingrich. This, of course, was because of the Bain story — which sucked up all the oxygen for at least a week — and deprived the other candidates (like Rick Santorum — who actually won Iowa) from gaining attention.
This was compounded by the fact that Mitt Romney has demonstrated he has a problem concerning how he presents his wealth to the public. He appears and out of touch with the common man (remember the $10,000 bet?), and continues to dodge and fumble questions about releasing his tax returns. He seems defensive.
Could it be that the Bain attacks might have been what first put him on defense?
Ultimately, it was the two recent debates which gave Gingrich his surge. And Gingrich, of course, has lightened up on the Bain attacks.
But my guess is that his recent surge wouldn’t have happened had the Bain attacks not first elevated Gingrich’s status as The Anti-Romney — and then begun softening up Romney by raising questions about his business experience.