By David Lauter, Tribune Washington Bureau –
WASHINGTON — The Obama campaign’s jabs at Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, which have been widely panned across the Northeast, could work quite well in Ohio, judging by the latest survey from the bipartisan Purple Poll.
Across the 12 battleground states the monthly poll surveys, 47 percent of likely voters said they agreed with the statement that private equity firms “care only about profits and short-term gains for investors. When they come in, workers get laid off, benefits disappear and pensions are cut. Investors walk off with big returns, and working folks get stuck holding the bag.”
By contrast, 38 percent agreed that “private investment and equity firms help the American economy grow. They launch new companies and rebuild existing ones, including some of the biggest employers in America. Their work has created millions of jobs, and will help drive America’s recovery.”
That 9-percentage-point margin swelled to 16 percentage points in Ohio, where Obama campaign aides hope the attacks will prove potent.
The argument carried somewhat less weight in Florida, and was even less useful in Colorado and Virginia, two states where economic conditions are better and Democrats are more likely to be college-educated, white-collar professionals than blue-collar workers.
In those latter two states, the two statements drew roughly even levels of support.
President Barack Obama and company have come under heavy criticism for their Bain attacks from political figures in Washington, bankers in New York and, of course, Romney campaign headquarters in Boston.
Last month, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker said in a television interview that he thought the attacks were “nauseating” and “a distraction from the real issues” — a sound bite that soon appeared in a pro-Romney ad.
Obama defended the attacks last month, but the issue kicked up again when former President Bill Clinton recently referred to Romney’s business record as “sterling.”
But for all that, the attack on Romney’s record at Bain has “the hallmarks of a classic wedge issue for the president,” Purple Poll analysts wrote. “It consolidates Democrats (64 percent to 22 percent) and has a plurality of support among independents (48 percent to 38 percent).”
Overall, the new survey found what most other polls have shown — a race that has locked into a fairly static dead heat.