I’m confused. On Sunday, Newt stopped off in Georgetown, S.C., a town that had suffered economically after a nearby steel plant in Gaffney acquired by Bain Capital went bankrupt, and said … nothing whatsoever about Bain. Seemed like he was ready to cut his losses on that subject and move on, an impression affirmed last night after the debate by one of his senior advisors in an interview with Robert Costa:
Beyond a bump in the polls, Walker also sees tonight’s debate as an opportunity for Gingrich to pivot away from Bain attacks. “We’ve suffered some backlash on those issues over the past week, but his answers on it tonight were right on target,” Walker says. In many respects, “he has moved on to other issues that we think are going to be key for South Carolina voters.”
Makes sense. He hit the Bain stuff hard to put it on voters’ radar screens and now he’s going to step away.
Or is he? New from Politico:
After being asked if he was attacking capitalism, Gingrich launched into a tirade:
“This is one of the bigger acts of baloney in modern times. Raising a question of judgment about a particular person in a particular company who has made that one of his two major claims for running for president is hardly an attack on capitalism,” Gingrich said. “The Bain model in some companies, you look at Georgetown Steel and you can look Gaffney as two examples, the Bain model is to go in a at very low price, borrow an immense amount of money, pay Bain a great deal of money and leave. Now, I’ll let you decide if that is really a good capitalism.
“I think it is exploitative. I think it’s not defensible. You’ll notice he doesn’t try to defend it. He hasn’t brought up a single one of these companies,” said Gingrich, although Romney did cite Staples and others in Monday’s debate…
“I’m proud of real capitalists. I’m proud of guys who say to their workers, ‘I’m in it with you. If I lose money and you lose a job, we lost together because we both tried.’ But I’m not particularly proud of people who go in, leverage the game, borrow the money, leave the debt behind and walk off with all the profits.”
Newt being Newt, we can only guess whether the campaign’s strategy on Bain changed at some point today and he’s just following the new blueprint or if he fully intended to keep ignoring this subject but couldn’t resist unloading on Romney again once he got a question about it. Maybe the post-debate internal polling showed him surging and he thinks this is one way to ride it? (Romney’s team seems to suddenly be taking him seriously again.) Or maybe there’s a simple difference of opinion among this advisors about whether attacking Bain is useful or counterproductive. Another Costa piece today at National Review has Newt’s spokesman saying this:
Indeed, to Hammond and others within the Gingrich camp, the candidate’s Bain-themed rhetoric is the keystone for their larger case. Hammond argues that there is a major gap “between what [Romney] says and reality,” and that to think Romney’s years at Bain will suddenly be an asset in November, after Democrats comb through the records, would be foolish. “It’s not Bain that’s the problem; it’s the narrative,” Hammond says. “[Romney] has a record, and he refuses to be accountable for it,” from his private-sector work to his gubernatorial decisions. “Romney has established his own conventional wisdom,” adds a senior Gingrich adviser. “Our job, in ads and on the stump, is to puncture it, and challenge his electability.”
Could be they’ve simply decided that the situation is desperate and that it’s kitchen-sink time. On Sunday, when Newt swung by Georgetown, S.C., the three most recent polls had him within two to seven points of Romney. Since then, after Huntsman announced he was dropping out yesterday morning, the three newest polls have Romney leading by 11 to 14 points. All of those were conducted before the debate, but not even a nice performance by Gingrich last night will eliminate a double-digit lead. Bain attacks could be his last chance. Can’t wait to see what he does with them on Thursday in his last big national soapbox before South Carolina votes. Exit quotation from Rasmussen: “Sixty-two percent (62%) of all GOP voters in the state view Romney’s business record as a reason to support him.”
Update: Here’s a fun little talking point for the general election if/when Romney becomes the nominee.