A defense of corporations against hecklers seems unlikely to have any impact on Romney in a GOP primary campaign, except to the extent it perhaps adds another data point to the picture some are seeking to paint of him as weird -- an effort Republicans will likely be unable to resist joining.
The big question for Romney, should he win the Republican nomination, will be if he seems like the kind of person for whom disaffected independents can vote. Along with the "corporations are people" statement, the Democratic National Committee is also bashing Romney for having helped argue that having raised taxes in Massachusetts should entitle the state to a better credit rating.
That's the sort of thing that would actually work for Romney in a general.
The one thing the present disillusionment with Obama won't change is people's tendency to see in candidates what they wish to, and for Romney right now, where some might see a candidate with no core values, others might see a temperamentally and politically moderate former East Coast governor who has to tack to the right in order to try to win a GOP primary dominated by radicals and who will likely tack on back to as close to the center as he needs to should he manage to run the highly-partisan gauntlet of the primary states. All the facts of the Massachusetts S&P story prove is that Romney, unlike the tea party partisans in the House, is not an ideologue and that he's willing to do what it takes to help his state succeed. Would that all political actors on the right these days had such flexibility!
That said, Romney's carefully calibrated low-key strategy -- from spending more than a year honing and delivering a consistent message on jobs and the economy even while the public conversation ricocheted about to opting out of aggressive plays in caucuses and straw polls -- seems certain to run up against a buzz saw more formidable than the mockery of liberal bloggers in the form of the emerging Rick Perry campaign. Perry is already shaking things up, and his decision to announce his presidential bid in South Carolina the day of the Ames straw poll -- and to let official word slip on Thursday, the same day as the Fox News Iowa debate -- signals that he has the potential to be a formidable campaigner. Or at the very least, that he has a tremendously acute sense of timing.
Already Michele Bachmann's had to rejigger her schedule to accommodate the Perry challenge, setting up a Sunday battle in Waterloo (yes, the cliched headlines write themselves), Iowa, where she was born and where he announced he will speak at the Lincoln Day dinner in the evening. She'll campaign there too now -- one can't cede one's hometown to an interloper -- and has moved her announced State Fair appearance up to Friday.
Certainly there's no question Romney can be awkward. The father of five boys, he has what I think of as a classic dad personality. Sometimes he's a bit stiff and overly formal, and when his jokes fail, they do so in exactly the kind of way that would make you go, "Oh, dad!" and cover your face with your hand if you were his child. But really, he's only awkward because he's a grown-up trying to seem cooler than he is amid the theatrical ridiculousness of a presidential campaign, and in a general election contest his very lack of cool could seem a plus to those who don't think Obama's hipness got them where they had hoped it would.