There was also good reason to believe the Bain attacks might work. No matter what conservatives say, presidential campaigns often appeal to class resentment. The right has been particularly effective at it. Think about the Bush campaign’s ad showing Kerry windsurfing. Or Karl Rove’s showing Obama surrounded by celebrities. Asked how he would have run against his own candidate in 1988, George H.W. Bush’s campaign manager, Lee Atwater, said he would have shown ads featuring Bush on his private tennis court alongside images of his waterfront mansion in Kennebunkport, Maine, before having the narrator intone: “No wonder he wants to cut capital gains taxes on the wealthy.”…

The Bain attacks were never likely to be terribly popular with the media, which given their upper-middle-class orientation, skew left on cultural issues like gay marriage, but right on economic ones like free trade. But Obama can’t win reelection simply with the votes of young, single, and minority voters. He needs to hold down his losses among blue-collar whites, a group with which he has always struggled. Using Romney’s stewardship at Bain to drive a wedge between him and the culturally conservative working-class whites whose turnout he desperately needs made a lot of sense, especially if the Obama campaign had tied Romney’s record at Bain to his support for unpopular Republican budgetary proposals.

But all that is now theoretical. The Booker, Patrick, and Clinton attacks virtually guarantee that the media will greet any additional anti-Bain attacks with scorn. The biggest flaw in Obama’s strategy, it appears, is not that swing voters can’t stomach his populist attacks, but that his fellow Democratic politicians can’t. Desperate for campaign cash, the Democratic Party has since the 1980s become deeply enmeshed with the finance industry.