“What Romney thinks is an asset is his biggest liability," said Bill Burton, Priorities USA cofounder. “We’re seeing erosion in views of Romney’s character."
“It’s clear that the attacks have failed to shift the race, despite their outspending us 3-1 in some states," said Stevens of the Romney campaign. “When the presidential campaign is not talking about his responsibility for the economy, he might as well be showing up at the World Series with a tennis racket."
To be sure, Obama’s attacks on Romney aren’t unprovoked. Tens of millions of dollars in television ads assailing his stewardship of the economy have been unleashed by the Romney campaign and allied groups that can collect unlimited donations.
In fact, Romney and the Republican Party substantially outraised Obama and the Democratic Party in June, suggesting the president may ultimately be outspent on the air. Romney announced a $106 million haul that month, leaving his campaign with a total of $160 million in the bank. The campaign has not disclosed how much of that is earmarked for the general election.
“We are only allowed to spend primary dollars from now through the convention," read a memo from the Romney campaign on Monday. “President Obama had no primary opponent, so could use all the money he raised for the primary against Gov. Romney. By contrast, Gov. Romney had to wage a long and expensive primary campaign using precious primary dollars that could not be replenished after he won."
But some political strategists say Romney’s failure to respond right away to broadsides against his tenure at Bain could leave him vulnerable in the fall. That’s what happened to Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004, when he failed to respond immediately to attacks on his military service from a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The lesson: Define yourself before your opponent does it for you.
“Romney is vulnerable on the Bain front," said Republican consultant Rick Tyler, whose super PAC pummeled Romney with anti-Bain ads that helped former House Speaker Newt Gingrich win the South Carolina primary in January. “There’s a large group of people who are disgusted with Obama, but they need some reason to hold onto to vote for Romney, and the Bain attacks speak to that.… Some voters are concerned about the capitalist side of the ledger that Romney is on."
Those anti-Romney ads were largely bankrolled by Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. He is now putting millions of dollars behind the Republican nominee.