UPDATE: That didn’t take long. The RNC just launched a “I stand with Cory [Booker]” petition.
The Obama campaign's central negative message on Mitt Romney — that he is a "vulture capitalist" — was stomped to bits by one of its leading surrogates on Sunday, Newark superhero and Mayor Cory Booker. Booker, known for saving people from burning buildings and personally shoveling constituents' driveways, trashed the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney's business record, calling them "nauseating."
In doing so, Booker helped write an effective response ad campaign and exposed the limits Democrats have in criticizing business.
It’s nauseating to the American public,” Booker said on NBC's "Meet the Press." “Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.”
“As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity,” he added. “To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses [and] to grow businesses. And this, to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.”
You can be damn sure that you'll be hearing the line "Even Coory Booker called that line of attack 'nauseating'" repeated, um, ad nauseam, from now till November.
Booker is no small time surrogate. He is a rising Democratic star with a growing national stature, including headlining Colorado Democrats' annual Jefferson Jackson Day fundraising dinner in February. His criticism of the Obama campaign's tactics will not stop the Bain attacks, but it will create awkward moments for Obama and other surrogates when they continue to peddle the campaign talking points, only to have reporters ask about Booker's comments.
It will also create some nice video clips for the Romney campaign to roll out: "Barack Obama's top surrogate said of Bain Capital 'they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses.'" You're probably not going to find a Romney surrogate saying the same of Obama's economic record.
The Booker blowback also exposes the limits Democrats have in attacking business.
Many high profile Democrat politicians, like Booker, are heavily dependent on business and Wall Street cash to run their campaigns. They aren't going to want to see their own financial backers flee in response to attacks for someone else's campaign, even if it's President Obama's.
On top of that, many Democrats are loathe to be painted into the anti-business box, a position out of the mainstream in all but the most left wing locations. The Obama campaign insists they aren't attacking business, but Booker implies they are, calling for them to "stop attacking private equity."
It doesn't matter whether the Obama campaign is attacking just Mitt Romney's record or business writ large. If Democrats keep telling Obama's campaign to tone down the attacks, voters are likely to think Obama is attacking business in general. Why else would Obama's fellow Democrats tell him to stop?
Just as Obama has continued to focus on "fairness" as opposed to "opportunity" — which polls show is a losing messaging strategy with swing voters — it looks like he'll continue to attack Mitt Romney's business experience, whether it's effective or not.
After ending over 60 Congressional careers over Obamacare, can we really expect much difference in his re-election campaign?
(Photo via AguilarFor32.com)