Recent coverage of Mitt Romney’s private-sector record has piqued the public’s interest in Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded and ran during the 1990s.
The Romney campaign has held up his work at Bain as an example of how he’d create jobs as president, but has dismissed Obama’s attacks on his work at Bain as a distraction from the economy.
“People are not worried about the details as to when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital to save the — the Olympics,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a Romney surrogate, said on the Sunday talk show circuit after days of speculation over when exactly Romney left the private equity firm. “Or the details [of] his assets which are managed by a blind trust, for Pete’s sake. They’re worried about their jobs and their families’ future.”
But a quick look at Google and Twitter data shows that people are at least curious.
Google Analytics shows that the number of searches for “Bain Capital” has jumped dramatically in the last week. Many of those Google searches came from swing states — including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — where the Obama campaign is airing ads attacking Romney and his record at Bain.
The interest in Bain also went up on Twitter. According to the third-party analysis tool Topsy Labs, the number of tweets mentioning the private equity firm jumped last week, dipped quickly on Sunday and then spiked on Monday. Topsy says it weeds out tweets by bots or “spammy sources.”
The Romney campaign contends that the attacks on their candidate’s record at Bain are falling short. In a memo on Monday, campaign pollster Neil Newhouse argued that Romney was closing in on President Obama’s lead despite the Bain attack ads.
“[I]f the point of the Obama negative onslaught is to undercut the Governor’s advantage on handling the economy, recent polling would indicate it has fallen short,” Newhouse wrote. “The Obama campaign’s misleading advertising can’t make up for the failed policies of this Administration.”
But independent polling finds otherwise. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found last week that voters in eight battleground states saw Romney’s business experience negatively. “Compared with February, more people in the eight states identified as ‘tossups’ by The Washington Post now say Romney did more to cut than create jobs in the United States when he worked as a corporate investor before entering politics,” according to the Post. “And twice as many swing-state voters consider Romney’s work in buying and restructuring companies a reason to oppose, rather than to support, his candidacy.”
A June 26 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 33 percent of swing-state voters see Romney’s business experience negatively versus just 18 percent who see it as an asset.
The super PAC backing President Obama, which has spent a significant amount of its resources on Bain attack ads, produced polling showing last week that the ads are working. In its memo, Priorities USA Action argued “clear negative trends have emerged” over Romney’s business experience. More voters in swing states view Romney’s time at Bain as a reason not to vote for the presumptive GOP nominee, 37 percent, than the 27 percent who view it as a reason to vote for him, according to the memo. Perhaps worse, voters exposed to the group’s ads preferred the president more than voters in media markets where the ads did not run.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.