Conservatives divided on how Romney should handle Bain attacks

Matt Pitchford Contributor
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How should Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney handle President Barack Obama’s constant attacks on his time at Bain Capital? Republican strategists and opinion leaders can’t seem to agree.

Craig Shirley, a President Ronald Reagan biographer and political historian, told The Daily Caller that it isn’t enough for Romney to rely on “luck and timing.”

“History is not a delicate little girl,” Shirley said. “It is a fearsome and rough customer, who only respects strength and even roughhouse behavior. History needs to be shoved along — manhandled — and right now, the campaign of Mitt Romney is doing little to manhandle history.”

Kellyanne Conway, a Republican strategist and pollster, told TheDC that Romney “should not apologize for his success, but explain how he achieved it to inspire and encourage others to do so.”

“Romney should name names,” Conway explained. “He helped to start or expand some of the nation’s most popular businesses: Staples, Burger King, Sports Authority. And then he can ask voters to ask themselves: Who created more jobs and who lost more jobs, Romney or Obama? It’s not even close.”

A senior GOP strategist and White House veteran told TheDC that Obama is still polling well against Romney because while Mitt has done well in playing offense against the economy, he has not played good enough defense on his own history.

Romney should “explain his own record, from Bain to tax shelters to whether or not the health care mandate was a tax,” the source said. “A good campaign factors in that the opposition gets to punch, too.”

Republican strategist Mary Matalin disagrees with the idea that Romney isn’t doing enough about Bain. She told TheDC that “the whole campaign is coming together and unfolding exceptionally well,” and that she doesn’t “buy the lib-spin that the Obama Bain attacks are moving the needle with any voters that will be the determinative ones.”

It is hard to say whether the Bain attacks are working. A Wall Street Journal poll from June indicated that the Bain attacks hurt Romney. A key Obama-aligned campaign agrees, with a poll on Wednesday from Priorities USA Action claiming that “voters in five 2012 swing states have moved noticeably away from Mitt Romney since the Obama super PAC began attacking his business background on the air.”

National Journal, however, argues that the strategy is simply buying Obama time, rather than doing anything to “seriously change the trajectory of the race.”

Hot Air has also picked apart a previous Washington Post/ABC News poll and concluded that Obama’s campaign needs to find a new issue, or “Romney’s fundraising will shortly put them in a very big hole.”

Dr. Larry Sabato, political scientist at the University of Virginia, sums up the conflict. He told TheDC that he is “not sure which approach is best.” Romney could prepare for a strong defense on Bain Capital, or he could refuse to spend time competing on Obama’s preferred ground and instead “focus entirely on Obama’s weak economy and other failures as president. Take your pick.”

For now, it seems that Romney has chosen the latter.

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