Obama attack ads make inroads, but Romney rakes in cash
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Propelled by a torrent of blistering television advertisements, President Barack Obama is successfully invoking Mitt Romney's career at Bain Capital to raise questions about Mr. Romney's commitment to the middle class, strategists in both parties say, as the candidates engage in a critical summer duel to set the terms for this fall.
Despite doubts among some centrist Democrats about the wisdom of attacking Mr. Romney's business career, millions of dollars in negative commercials painting him as a ruthless executive who pursued profits at the expense of jobs are starting to make an impact on undecided voters in swing states, according to strategists from both sides.
The strategists agree that the ads are having an effect but differ on whether Mr. Romney is suffering any substantial damage.
While the sense of worry and alarm that has hung over the White House for weeks is dissipating, and with his supporters relieved by the Supreme Court decision on Thursday to uphold most of his health care law, Mr. Obama faces new challenges in the period from now to the conventions at the end of the summer.
People close to the Romney campaign say it could close its June fundraising books having collected an additional $100 million, possibly more, a tally that would exceed all expectations and further extend the overall Republican financial advantage in the race.
With that cash influx, Mr. Romney's team is preparing a new advertising campaign that will aggressively portray Mr. Obama as a craven political figure, rather than the transformative leader he pledged to be.
They began that effort in the past several days with a new ad that uses video of Hillary Rodham Clinton lashing out at Mr. Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary campaign as spending "millions of dollars perpetuating falsehoods."
Aides said they were considering more ads with Ms. Clinton or her husband criticizing Mr. Obama.
"He's just another politician," Matt Rhoades, the campaign manager for Mr. Romney, said in an interview. "He's not the Barack Obama of the last campaign."
And Mr. Obama's aides acknowledged that, whatever they do, they still must contend with a troubled economy, with monthly reminders in the unemployment and job creation reports, the next of which comes out on Friday.
Mr. Romney's aides said in interviews that their strategy depends on keeping their candidate close to Mr. Obama in the polls until at least the Republican convention at the end of August. They hope to then begin to pull away with a relentless case that Mr. Obama has not been up to the job of fixing the economy -- and that Mr. Romney has the experience and know-how to lead the nation to recovery.
They have studiously avoided getting drawn into what they have called side issues. And at times they have limited Mr. Romney's media appearances, even after the health care decision, which conservatives believe will help motivate voters who now see electing Mr. Romney as the only chance to repeal the health law.
But Mr. Romney's strategy of avoiding clashes on issues other than the economy and minimizing his risks -- he has no public events scheduled until the Fourth of July -- is starting to draw criticism even from some fellow Republicans, who are urging him to take more specific stands and set out a more positive agenda.
Mr. Obama, by contrast, has put other big issues in front of the nation on his terms, most notably same-sex marriage and illegal immigration, displaying the advantages of incumbency, energizing crucial voting groups and moving public attention at least temporarily away from jobs.
First Published July 1, 2012 12:00 am