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Does Romney Have a Bain Problem on the Right, Too? Does Romney Have a Bain Problem on the Right, Too?

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Does Romney Have a Bain Problem on the Right, Too?

To hear some strategists tell it, the Obama campaign is delivering payback to the GOP by attacking Mitt Romney over Bain Capital as savagely as Republican functionaries once pounded Michael Dukakis for being weak on crime in 1988 and "Swift-boated" John Kerry in 2004.

But as the Bain issue festers on, how much does Romney have to worry about the right--his base-- as well as the left and center? Recall that Newt Gingrich's Bain attacks in the South Carolina primary in January helped the former Speaker win that state: According to a CBS poll analysis, 28 percent of South Carolina Republican primary voters had a generally negative view of Romney's background of investments and restructuring companies.

Romney is already suffering from thin support of his conservative base, so it really didn't help that conservative pundits prominently questioned his failure to release tax returns on the Sunday shows, with George Will even suggesting on ABC that Romney had something to hide, and Bill Kristol expressing exasperation on Fox over Romney's resistance to the move. In Kristol's neoconservative Weekly Standard today, columnist Irwin Stelzer also asks why Romney, who knows the issues as well as anyone because he ran Bain Capital, hasn't been tougher on Wall Street, especially in the wake of the Libor scandal. Today's giant banks "are too big to fail, and too complicated to regulate," Stelzer writes. "So where is he when economists say that the better alternative is not more of the failed policies of the Obama years--regulating the unregulatable, bailing out when all else fails --but breaking up the big banks? Not for vulgar populist reasons, but to improve the functioning of the capital markets."

Wall Street is not a problem for Republican candidates in most elections, but this is an era of unprecedented unpopularity for the errant former Masters of the Universe. And therefore a moment of unusual risk for a financial wizard running for president.

It's more likely than not, of course, that the Bain matter will fade and the election will be decided on the issue that Romney desperately wants to return to, but which the Obama-ite attacks have, for the moment, diverted attention from: the weak economy. And after all, Americans have always loved material success, no matter what package it comes in, and Romney is one of the wealthiest capitalists ever to run for president. "At the end of the day people are going to know Mitt Romney was a super-successful businessman," Vin Weber, a senior Romney advisor, told me today. "And most people will find that attractive and not negative."

Perhaps. But for the moment Mitt Romney is getting seriously Dukakis-ized.

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