By Dick Morris - 06/19/12 10:27 PM EDT
The battle of Barack ObamaBarack ObamaNigeria is making progress on economic reform and security Obama the 'X' factor of the 2016 cycle FULL SPEECH: Hillary Clinton closes out Democratic convention MORE is ending in his defeat. A sagging economy, a likely setback on ObamaCare and sliding job approval are foreclosing the possibility that the president can be reelected on his record in office.
So the battle of Mitt Romney is beginning. It is evident to Obama’s people that only through a negative campaign can they hope to win the election. Their strategy in attacking Romney is becoming clear.
Whether or not he can overcome the negative is wrapped up in how people see his tenure at Bain Capital. Does it indicate that Romney is a job creator or a dealmaker? Is he a creature of Wall Street or Main Street? Are his skills at saving businesses, or just at making money from them?
The perception of his Bain career is far more important to the Romney candidacy than his record as governor of Massachusetts or his various flip-flops on issues. Bain goes the core of his key credential, his business experience. Lose it and he loses everything.
If Obama can win the battle of Bain, he can go from there to paint Republican budget-cutting plans as the product of a party whose nominee either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the plight of the average person. He can depict GOP refusal to raise taxes on the rich as a pander to its backers. And then he can take the campaign to the safe haven of all Democrats: Medicare and Social Security.
But if Obama loses the battle of Bain, his attacks on the Republican Party will miss the mark (or miss the Mitt). The House Republicans (as a unit, not as individuals) might be seen as heartless or rigid or dogmatic, but Romney doesn’t sit in the House. Unlike Dole in 1996, he is not responsible for the positions his party takes in Congress. Nor has he ever embraced voucher alternatives to Medicare without also stressing the ongoing availability of the current system into the indefinite future.
Even if Obama scores against the Republican Party as an institution, Romney himself will be seen as an expert who knows his stuff and quietly creates jobs while the politicians fight. If the Republican nominee’s image is deeply rooted in his successes at Bain, he cannot be characterized as a rich guy making deals and raking in millions. Nor can he be vulnerable to Democratic charges of arrogance and ignorance of the problems of Main Street.
Obama opened the battle of Bain with a two-week foray of negative ads depicting a steelworker who had lost his job, pension and, apparently, his hope as well. It was a moving ad that cries out for rebuttal. The Romney campaign must put ads on the screen that show the opposite of the Obama negative — the success stories of Bain and the ways in which Romney’s skill, intellect, dedication and hard work produced some jobs and saved others for average American workers.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Clinton, is the author of Outrage, Fleeced, Catastrophe and 2010: Take Back America — A Battle Plan. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by e-mail or to order a signed copy of their latest book, Revolt!: How To Defeat Obama and Repeal His Socialist Programs — A Patriot’s Guide, go to dickmorris.com.