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Gingrich Goes Scorched Earth Against Romney With Bain Doc

I finally got around to watching the trailer for the Winning Our Future PAC mini-documentary on Mitt Romney’s days at Bain Capital. Man, that’s tough stuff. The ad, which is actually a half-hour long (this is a trailer) will get massive airtime in South Carolina between now and their primary on January 21. And it paints the private equity business at Bain as a predatory capitalist scheme, making millions for investors while workers suffered, in ways that you would expect out of a Democratic PAC during the general election.

The huge ad campaign by Winning Our Future plays off a movie, King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town. The group recently purchased the movie, which is described on the film’s website as being about “one raider and his firm and how they destroyed” the dreams of “thousands of Americans and their families.” […]

Gingrich, speaking this morning on NBC’s Today show, said he has not seen the film. But he contends Romney needs to give a complete account of his Bain stewardship, arguing that his rival did not engage in “traditional capitalism.”

“They apparently looted the companies, left people unemployed and walked off with millions of dollars,” Gingrich told NBC.

There is some poetic justice in how Romney, whose Super PAC destroyed Gingrich in Iowa, is getting a comeuppance in South Carolina. It’s not like there’s much upside for Gingrich: this is a scorched-earth strategy that will not help his Presidential chances. Basically, a bruised Gingrich wanted to destroy Romney, and his buddy Sheldon Adelson bankrolled the SuperPAC, giving them the means to do it.

The risk, of course, is not only that this backfires among Republicans, but that it works among independents, enough to give the Obama campaign all the tools they need to use it during the general election. In fact, I’d say that’s likely. Listening to Gingrich here, you can hear these words, with few exceptions, coming out of the mouths of Democratic surrogates for the next year:

“I don’t think a Milton Friedman or a Hayek would say to you, rich guys have to go and rip off companies and leave a wreckage behind,” Gingrich said in an interview after a town hall appearance here Sunday night. “I think that’s plundering. I don’t think that’s capitalism.” […]

“I don’t want to pre-judge Romney,” Gingrich said. But “you can’t have capitalism on the way up and socialism on the way down. You can’t have somebody who says, I’m so smart, I want a huge upside, and by the way I’m so smart you’re going to get ripped off while I get a huge upside.”

I actually don’t think this will be a particularly long primary. But the attacks on Romney have already assured themselves a resonance in the general, just as Al Gore’s attacks in 1988 on Michael Dukakis came up again later, for example, or Dick Gephardt’s against Kerry in 2004. Just because it won’t be a long primary doesn’t mean that the primary won’t hurt the ultimate victor in the general election.

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David Dayen

David Dayen