Polls suggest that many Americans have already internalized much of the weight of Romney’s Bain career, after a bruising primary fight that focused for much of January and February on his record as a private capital investor. During the first few months of this year, under a sustained assault by his primary opponents with ads like “King of Bain,” Romney saw a sharp spike in the percentage of Americans who viewed him negatively, from just over 35% to just over 45%. By contrast, in 2004, Kerry came out of the Democratic primary without much damage. According to Gallup, his unfavorability rating actually dropped from 31% to 26% between the beginning of January and the middle of February of that year, when Kerry began the process of wrapping up the nomination. It was only after the Bush assault began a few weeks later that his negative numbers began to rise by about ten points. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Romney’s numbers can’t drop further, but it does mean that the Obama attack is, at least for the moment, retreading old ground…

A third challenge for the Obama campaign is that the news cycle may be working against the President. At the Romney campaign, the plan has long been to fight Obama’s attacks on the failures of Bain Capital with the attacks on the failures of the U.S. economy over the last few years. In effect, the Romney campaign plans to make the coming election a war of attrition: If Obama uses unemployed people who lost their jobs after Bain Capital investments, Romney will use unemployed people who lost their jobs during the recession that has largely defined Obama’s time in office. Here is an example of that strategy, in an online spot from the Romney campaign.

It’s a strategy that depends heavily on circumstance. If the economy is growing and confidence is rising, Romney will be whistling in the wind. But if the economy is struggling, then Romney’s message is designed to ride the wave. In the last few weeks, the economy has begun to struggle again. Job growth has slowed. Renewed weakness has appeared in Europe and China. Economic confidence has stopped rising. After months of remarkable gains, global markets are once again teetering. In other words, at the moment he hopes to draw attention to his own message about Romney, Obama faces an environment that favors Romney’s message.