"I'm sitting in focus groups right this minute where it just came up," said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. "It's an example — talking about the GSA — of what's wrong with government. It gives them some ammunition and something to talk about."
Romney this week called the GSA "embarrassing" to the Obama administration and made a point of stressing that leadership is set at the top.
Still, his criticism seemed aimed more at painting a bloated government than as a direct shot at Obama.
"It damages this president indirectly because he is being portrayed as the president of big government," Light said.
As governor of Massachusetts from 2003 through 2006, Romney encountered his own troubles, including fights with the head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority over management and construction problems with Boston's "Big Dig" highway project.
Romney this week was more nuanced about the Secret Service, which is also providing security for him on the campaign trail. He urged firing Secret Service employees caught in the incident involving prostitutes but said he had confidence in the response by agency Director Mark Sullivan, whose swift action on the agents and uniformed officers suspected of wrongdoing won praise from other Republicans.
As a result, the Secret Service scandal is not, at this point, seeming to hit the White House.
But it has damaged an institution whose public image has been upright and heroic
Mellman said such falls from grace increase public cynicism, which itself can be damaging in a democracy.
"What it does do is contributes to the very low confidence that people have in all of our institutions," he said.
For Obama, the photographs that purport to show U.S. soldiers with the bodies of Afghan insurgents feeds an on-and-off image of American warriors over the last 10 years that was most notoriously damaged by pictures from Abu Ghraib, an Iraqi prison where U.S. military police photographed themselves abusing detainees.
In recent months, American troops have been caught up in controversies over burning Muslim holy books, urinating on Afghan corpses, an alleged massacre of 17 Afghan villagers and other misdeeds.
Those images and accounts come as public support for continuing the U.S. combat presence in Afghanistan is waning and as Obama works to negotiate an exit strategy with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai is calling for a quicker withdrawal of international forces.
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Washington and Tom Sheeran in Elyria, Ohio, contributed to this report.
Follow Jim Kuhnhenn on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jkuhnhenn
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.