President Barack Obama’s campaign to discredit Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital may be picking up traction among voters in 12 “swing” states whose electoral votes will likely decide the election.
A political action committee supporting Obama released a memo last week announcing its intention to continue attacking Romney and Bain. The Priorities USA Action committee cited poll data, news reports and focus groups that indicate the strategy has been effective in certain swing states, or states where the result is highly uncertain and the election will likely be close. The ads have been particularly effective in states with sizable blue collar populations hit hard by the recession.
In a poll conducted by non-partisan polling firm Purple Insight last week, 47 percent of swing state voters said that private equity hurts workers, compared to 38 percent who said it helps the economy. Fifteen percent said they were not sure. Those findings are remarkably different from those released by Monmouth University, whose recent poll indicated that many voters are unfamiliar with private equity, and that those who are familiar typically have positive views on the industry.
“The Obama campaign position on private investment firms outperforms that of the Romney campaign,” according to a Purple Insight report that accompanied the findings. The spreads between positive and negative perceptions of the industry were much closer in states like Virginia and Colorado, whose economies fared better during the recession. Those differences were more pronounced in Ohio, Florida and other states that suffered in the crisis.
The Priorities USA Action memo also listed reports from ABC News, CNN and Reuters that indicate Romney’s image has suffered from the attacks, which many prominent Democrats condemned for being an unfair depiction of Bain Capital and, by extension, private equity.
“While criticism of Romney’s business record may not resonate with elites, it is clearly resonating with the actual voters who will decide this election,” said Bill Burton of Priorities USA Action in a statement. “New independent data this week replaces theoretical banter by pundits with empirical evidence from voters. Middle class Americans across the country are concerned about Romney’s record for profiting from bankruptcies.”
Priorities USA Action and the Romney campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
In conjunction with the release of the strategy memo, Priorities USA Action also produced a new 30-second ad featuring a former employee of Bain portfolio company GS Industries who lost his job after the company went under. The employee, Donnie Box, blamed Bain and Romney’s handling of the investment for the company’s demise. GS Industries also featured heavily in ads released directly by the Obama campaign in May.
The private equity industry invested heavily in swing states in 2011, with seven of the 12 swing states listed by Purple Insights also making Private Equity Growth Capital Council’s list of the top 20 states to receive private equity investments. North Carolina ranked highest, with its companies receiving $10.5 billion last year.
The PEGCC’s state-by-state report received a substantial amount of coverage from local news sources in battleground states at the time of its release. The Miami Herald (Florida), The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), Florida Today, The Reno Gazette Journal (Nevada), The Denver Post and The Denver Business Journal (Colorado), The Charlotte Observer (North Carolina) and The Charlottesville Business Journal (Virginia) all ran stories on the industry’s level of investment in state businesses.
The PEGCC is aligning resources to combat negative perceptions of private equity in many battleground states, where debate over industry’s role in the economy has largely been coloured by the election, according to a source.
The PEGCC declined to comment.