Republicans think Democrats have overplayed their hand on Bain Capital attacks by using testimony from a man, Joe Soptic, who attributes his wife’s cancer death to losing his job and health insurance at a Bain-owned factory.
Critics complain the ad by Democratic super PAC Priorities USA is not just indecent but misleading. In addition to implying Romney bears responsibility for letting someone die, a standout accusation even in an intensely negative presidential race, the ad doesn’t mention that Soptic’s wife was diagnosed several years after he lost his job. Republicans are doing all they can to link the controversial ad to the Obama campaign.
The Obama camp is not exactly making it hard for them to make that connection. Several campaign officials initially dodged questions on whether the ad was appropriate by claiming unfamiliarity with the details of his story. This was already a too-cute claim, since they had used Sopitc in their own ads and campaign materials. But Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski pointed out that an Obama campaign website actually featured the very same anecdote that Priorities USA used for their ad, describing the subject as “Joe Soptic, employee for 28 years, whose wife died of lung cancer after he lost his GST health plan.”
“When President Obama’s campaign claimed they didn’t ‘have any knowledge of the story’ in the disgraceful Obama Super PAC ad, they weren’t just forgetting the facts - they were deliberately misleading voters,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement on Friday. “For months, the Obama campaign has repeatedly featured these distortions in their own advertisements and campaign activity. If voters can’t trust the Obama campaign to tell the truth about something so obvious, how can they trust anything they say?”
The Obama camp says they’ve never claimed not to have used Soptic themselves, but that since Priorities USA is an independent group they’re legally prohibited from coordinating with them and should not be considered responsible. They have not condemned the ad.
Romney’s campaign has been complaining for months that Obama’s campaign doesn’t take enough heat for its attacks given Obama’s early post-partisan brand. This latest episode gives them perhaps their best opportunity yet to undermine Obama’s nice guy image, but it does carry the risk of getting bogged down in whining. Especially considering Romney is no angel when it comes to outrageous attack ads.
Conservative big money group American Crossroads, whose sister group Crossroads GPS recently had to pull a Senate ad after acknowledging an inaccurate attack themselves, has a video out calling on Obama to denounce the Priorities USA ad.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.