by Chas Danner
Pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA has introduced a new and ruthless angle for its continued Bain attacks on Romney: a former GST Steel employee connecting his wife's cancer and quick death to Bain Capital's closing of GST Steel:
From a strategic standpoint, this ad is risky, but clever. Priorities’ biggest handicap is that they’re being badly outraised by Republican SuperPACs, but a controversial ad like this will surely get tons of free airtime on cable news programs, and drive discussions about political ads, but also about Romney’s record at Bain. It’s also a tough ad to respond to if you’re a Republican, because any counter-argument hits the tripwire that is health care policy. Romney can argue that he had “left Bain” when Soptic’s plant closed, or dig up someone with a similar story to hit back at President Obama, but the fact is that, no matter who is responsible for this guy losing his health insurance, only one of these candidates has a health care plan that would have helped.
Paul Waldman concurs about the health care angle. Looking at the larger strategy, last week John Ellis made the argument that Obama and his allies were using "chemical warfare" on Romney's record inorder to disillusion potential Romney voters:
The 2012 president election, boiled down to its remaining variables, is about two things: (1) white voters who voted for Barrack Obama last time and have since grown disillusioned and, (2) white voters who stayed home in 2008 rather than vote for John McCain but may vote this time. The Obama campaign's goal is to make both groups stay home rather than vote. It's not a "negative campaign" they're running. It's purposefully toxic.
Ross Douthat observes that Obama's recent emphasis on social issues is not likely to appeal to these voters. He suspects that the Obama campaign's "goal isn’t to win disaffected working class whites so much as to render Romney sufficiently radioactive that they mostly just sit things out in disgust":
Obama doesn’t need these voters to like him, so he can afford to direct his policy pandering elsewhere; he just needs them to dislike his opponent enough to declare a plague on both houses and stay home.
So far the Romney campaign has only issued a boilerplate response to the ad. Meanwhile Alexander Burns points out that the man's wife died in 2006, years after the plant's closing, which at least somewhat muddles the ad's desired implication. Still, as pointed out above, the Romney campaign making that distinction would lead it into the murky health care waters.