[Posted by Karl]
Although the advisers had always expected that Democrats would malign Mr. Romney’s work of buying and selling companies, they were largely unprepared for an assault that came so early in the campaign and from within the ranks of their own party, those involved in the campaign discussions said.
Even as Mr. Romney coasted to victory in New Hampshire, they worry that the critique could prove more potent as the race shifts to South Carolina, where shuttered mills dot the landscape, unemployment is higher and suspicion of financial elites is not limited to left-leaning voters.
They should be concerned, given that New Hampshire and Iowa have among the lowest unemployment rates in the country. But many more people should be concerned that behind a facade of denial of the Bain issue, Team Romney was surprised it already came up. During the last presidential nomnination campaign, John McCain raised the Bain issue. Duncan Hunter raised a Bain issue. And Mike Huckabee raised the Bain issue, recycling a lefty conspiracy theory, but most famously in his pre-Iowa quip on the Tonight Show: “People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off.” There is no way these attacks (regardless of their ultimate merit) should have surprised Mitt Romney or his campaign.
Back to the NYT:
The attacks on Mr. Romney are especially unsettling to his campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, who worries that a narrative depicting Romney as a heartless corporate raider will drag down his favorability rating and be sustained by the Obama campaign, said two people told of the internal discussions. (Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior strategist for Mr. Romney, played down such concerns. “I wouldn’t read too much into the rumors,” he said.)
While his campaign advisers generally agree that Mr. Romney must explain his work at Bain, they are wary of engaging in an exhaustive public examination of the nearly 100 deals he was involved in, anxious that it could bog him down in the inevitably messy details of fixing troubled companies, whether they are job cuts or big financial payouts.
Does Team Romney not realize that the candidate’s image is not fully within their control? Do they not know that the left — from Team Obama to the establishment media — will have some (perhaps more than some) say in the matter? People who have $19 million in the bank might have spent a few thousand assigning someone to work on the Bain issue, both in terms of general message and having rapid responses to specific cases ready to email to the media, instead of leaving it to Rich Lowry to explain them after taking the hit.
Mitt Romney is the odds-on favorite for the GOP nomination primarily because he is the one with experience running for president. He is the one who has worn a suit to the job interview, while his rivals, to put it mildly, have not. If GOP voters begin to think Romney is not running a campaign that competently responds to attacks, he will have a bigger problem than Bain.