A lot of political insiders in both parties think Bain Capital is pretty much a dead issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. After all, Mitt Romney has ably defended his work at the private equity firm that made him rich, and a number of top Democrats, ranging from Cory Booker to Ed Rendell to Bill Clinton himself, have defended Bain and companies like it. So there's an emerging consensus that Bain is over as an issue.
Except it's not. Not only do President Obama's strategists still believe Romney's business record will be an effective issue, a new poll by a bipartisan firm suggests attacks on Romney's past might play well in some key swing states this fall.
Purple Strategies is a political consulting firm that includes Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. For its new Purple Poll, the company's pollsters read two statements to voters in several swing states, each statement appropriating the language of one side in the Bain debate.
The first was: "Private investment and equity firms help the American economy grow. They launch new companies and rebuild existing ones, including some of the biggest employers in America. Their work has created millions of jobs and will help drive America's recovery."
The second was: "Private investment and equity firms care only about profits and short-term gains for investors. When they come in, workers get laid off, benefits disappear, and pensions are cut. Investors walk off with big returns, and working folks get stuck holding the bag."
The overall result in these swing states: Forty-seven percent agreed with the "care only about profits" description, while 38 percent picked the "help America grow" statement. That's a significant amount of anti-Bain sentiment.
The results are particularly striking in Ohio, perhaps the most important state in November's election. Forty-nine percent of Ohioans agreed with the "care only about profits" description of private equity, while 33 percent agreed with the "help America grow" description.
In Florida, another absolutely critical state, the numbers aren't as decisive -- 47 to 40 in favor of "care only about profits." But they still help Obama.
Other states are different stories. In Colorado, the two sides are in a virtual tie, 44 to 43 in favor of "care only about profits." In Virginia, the "help America grow" answer is slightly ahead, 44 to 42.