The Republican primary race was longer and more grueling than Mitt Romney hoped. But for all its rigors, the contest left three key Romney issues unresolved. Each will play a role in the general election campaign — but in a different way than in the primaries.
The first is the question of Romney’s business career and taxes. In the GOP race, Newt Gingrich led the charge in accusing Romney of exploiting companies and laying off workers while head of the private equity firm Bain Capital. Gingrich’s attack was clumsy and poorly researched. But even if it had been more skillful, many Republicans just didn’t want to hear any criticism of Romney’s business record. Some equated such criticism with an attack on capitalism itself. Under fire from his own side, Gingrich backed off.
That meant Romney didn’t really have to work very hard to defend his Bain record. But now the Obama campaign is hitting Romney harder than Gingrich ever did. Even when prominent Democrats like Cory Booker, Ed Rendell and Bill Clinton criticized the Bain attacks, the Obama campaign kept banging away. The president’s operatives believe, and have polling data to suggest, that attacking Bain will work — not everywhere in the country, not with all voters, but with some key swing voters in the some of the most important key states. If Obama’s Bain attacks work only in Ohio, for example, that alone might be the president’s margin of victory.
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