The empire is striking back. Republican front-runner Mitt Romney has begun an offensive against his main rivals in the runup to the South Carolina Republican presidential primary January 21. At the same time, he is defending his record leading Bain Capital, the controversial private-equity firm that is being criticized for predatory business practices.
In the next few days, Romney is expected to start using TV ads to spotlight people who benefited from Bain's activities, including those who got jobs or had their jobs saved by Bain, according to Republican strategists.
Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who is supporting Romney, told a rally in Columbia last night, "We have a real problem when we have Republicans talking like danged Democrats against the free market. We believe in the free market." She was apparently referring to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Romney rivals who have attacked him and the Bain firm.
In addition, "Restore Our Future," a pro-Romney political action committee, has bought millions of dollars in TV time for an advertising blitz in South Carolina and in Florida, which holds a key primary on January 31. In an ad that began running today, Gingrich, perhaps Romney's top GOP foe, is described as desperate to tear the front-runner down. A narrator says, "Newt attacks because he has more baggage than the airlines. Newt was fined $300,000 for ethics violations, took $1.6 million from Freddic Mac and co-sponsored a bill with Nancy Pelosi that would have given $60 million a year to a UN program supporting China's brutal one-child policy."
All this suggests that Romney will respond very harshly to all the expected attacks against him, so the next week will be a very rough one for all sides.