The president's campaign has begun a drive to define Mitt Romney's economic policies -- and to move on from the fight over gay marriage.
The Obama campaign is moving to focus the presidential debate on the economy -- and to frame it in a way that makes Mitt Romney a clear villain. A two-minute ad airing in mostly Rust Belt swing states and a standalone website, RomneyEconomics.com, aim to transform the president's biggest weakness into a his rival's. That Obama would attack Romney on his private-equity experience was never in doubt. The question is how and when the campaign would do it.
First, the how. In large part, the ad, titled "Steel," is a no-brainer, telling the story of GST Steel, a Kansas City company bought by Bain Capital in 1993 and closed in 2001 after entering bankruptcy. Bain made a profit of more than $12 million on the company, but 750 people lost jobs and pensions. The video features friendly, hard-working, older men who look like your father or uncle or brother-in-law, and it relies almost entirely on their first-person testimony, avoiding heavy-handed, ominous voiceovers such as those featured in the "King of Bain" documentary that a Newt Gingrich-aligned super PAC used against Romney during the Republican primary. The Obama campaign has to walk a fine line on the matter. When Romney's GOP rivals attacked his experience at Bain, they were quickly tarred by other conservatives as being against the free market; the ads seem to have hurt Romney's overall favorability, but the backlash hurt Romney's critics, too. "Steel" focuses on the individuals and how they were hurt; it emphasizes not just the plant closure, but the employees' loss of pension. Nonetheless, Obama ally Steve Rattner -- a frequent Romney critic -- called the ad "unfair" Monday morning, an indication of the delicate balancing act facing the campaign. The length of the ad also reflects the Obama campaign's belief that ads longer than the standard 30-second spot tend to connect better with voters.