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Obama's Bain bashing brings benefits, poll shows

June 07, 2012|By David Lauter
  • A screenshot from the Obama campaign ad "Steel," which attacked Romney for his tenure at Bain Capital.
A screenshot from the Obama campaign ad "Steel," which attacked… (BarackObama.com )

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% 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% 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 that attacks against Romney’s record in private equity 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.

Obama and company have come under heavy criticism for their Bain attacks from political figures in Washington, bankers in New York and, of course, the 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 during a news conference after the NATO summit in Chicago, but the issue kicked up again when former President 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% to 22%) and has a plurality of support among independents (48% to 38%).”

Overall, the new survey found what most other polls have shown – a race that has locked into a fairly static dead heat.

On most questions, the poll showed no significant movement over the last month. Romney has continued to consolidate support among Republicans, which has bolstered his standing slightly, although the shift is well within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

The poll, sponsored by a group of Democratic and Republican political consultants, surveyed 2,000 likely voters in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. It ran from May 31 through June 5 using automated telephone interviews. The sample is weighted in an effort to adjust for the fact that automated polls cannot call cellphones. The state-level sub-samples have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

david.lauter@latimes.com

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