Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

'Anti-business' label could hurt Obama's chances

By Alex Castellanos, CNN Contributor
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Fri June 8, 2012
Alex Castellanos says that President Obama is vulnerable to criticism that his administration is anti-business.
Alex Castellanos says that President Obama is vulnerable to criticism that his administration is anti-business.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Democrats are citing some polling data to argue attacks on Bain are hurting Romney
  • Alex Castellanos says there is much in the polls to show opportunity for Romney
  • He says voters are inclined to accept the view that Obama's policies are anti-business
  • Castellanos: Voters see Romney as the bigger agent of change in Washington

Editor's note: Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor, is a Republican consultant and the co-founder of Purple Strategies. Follow him on Twitter: @alexcast

(CNN) -- Are the attacks on Mitt Romney's career in private equity at Bain Capital working? A few blue people (Democrats, not the savage Scots in "Braveheart") are interpreting our recent Purple Strategies poll of 12 battleground states to make that case.

They are understandably eager for validation of their strategy: Since they began their assault on Romney's private-sector experience, the race has tightened. One Democrat told the Huffington Post, "What are they suggesting, that Dems spend less time focusing on Mitt Romney's failed record at Bain? Give me a break."

Surveys, however, are like sheet music. Different folks can sit down at the piano and play the same notes vastly different ways, based on their experience, insight and abilities.

Alex Castellanos
Alex Castellanos

I'll let my blue partners at Purple and others offer their interpretation, but here are a few ways to play this music from my red piano bench.

In the business of politics, there is a term for would-be operatives who pluck one number from a survey and build a campaign on it. They are called "top-line strategists." It is not a term of endearment. They embrace a shiny, glittering number as the beginning and end of truth. But one dot does not make a line. One note does not a symphony play.

For example, Ohio is a working-class state. Not unlike Wisconsin, it is full of voters that my friend, the insightful GOP consultant Brad Todd, identifies as "guys with their names on their shirt pockets." In the current economic and political environment, you might expect a state like this to think private equity hurts workers more than it creates growth and jobs. Sure enough, 33% of Ohio voters tell the Purple Poll that private equity helps the economy while 49% report it hurts workers. But the story does not end there.

At the same time, in Ohio, with the same voters who hold this view, Romney has moved from 5 percentage points down to 3 points ahead. This occurred, remarkably, in the face of a monthlong, $25 million assault in the swing states on Bain Capital and private equity by President Barack Obama's campaign.

What does that tell us?

It tells us that agreement without relevance is not determinative. The real narrative of this election is different from the story the Obama campaign is telling.

Opinion: Focus group shows Bain image hurting Romney

In real English, voters fear what Obama is doing to the economy, attacking private-sector success, more than they worry about Romney's admitted record of great success and occasional failure in the private sector.

In fact, a friend recently sent me a question from an unpublished national survey, which he's allowed me to share here:

When asked, 45% of American voters agreed, "Mitt Romney can't be trusted with our economy because he worked in the private equity industry, which profits from downsizing companies." But 55% of voters agreed, "Attacking the entire private equity industry for the actions of one person who worked in the industry over 10 years ago is unfair, and it's a perfect example of the Obama administration's anti-business mindset."

Our nation is starved for jobs, growth and prosperity, yet Team Blue clings bitterly to a campaign religion that has already convinced 55% of the American people that their president is anti-business? No wonder Bill "The Budget Balancer" Clinton, whose flag read, "It's the economy, stupid," is wandering off the reservation.

What campaign themes are relevant? Independents in these decisive swing states seem to believe Mitt Romney "knows what it takes to create jobs," 45% Romney, 33% Obama. That seems to be even more important in Ohio, a state where 62% of voters say our country is on the wrong track, highest among the four key "Purple Predictor" states, including Florida, Colorado and Virginia.

Swing-state voters, who loathe Washington and today's divisive politics as much or more than other Americans, also seem to believe Romney would be the bigger agent of change in Washington, 38% Romney to 32% for Obama. Independents say Romney is the more powerful agent of political change, 37% Romney to 24% for the president.

Lastly, these voters would rather "switch" than fight to keep the blue leadership they have today: They tell us they see keeping Obama as a bigger risk to the country than switching to Mitt Romney. When we asked them if they were more seriously concerned about what Romney or Obama "would do to the country over the next four years," Obama was seen as a greater risk by +5% among all swing state voters and by +11% among independents.

Mitt Romney may be less passionate than Obama, but he is also less frightening. Voters fear the anti-business politician more than they fear the businessman.

For Obama, "Yes, we can," apparently, has become, "Oh no, he might." This Halloween, before the November vote, Obama may be the scarier mask.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alex Castellanos.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT