The New Hampshire primary has come and gone and the craziest thing happened—former Gov. Mitt Romney won again, this time by a lot.
The fire and brimstone that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich threatened after Iowa did not cause the Romney train to derail. On the contrary, Romney won by 16.4 percent and Newt Gingrich garnered only 9.4 percent, well down from the 12–16 percent he was polling as recently as last week in December.
The attacks on Romney's record as head of Bain Capital not only did not lessen his appeal to voters in New Hampshire, they boomeranged on Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Both Newt and Rick were publicly chided by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, the last thing any GOP candidate wishes for. Moreover, Romney's portrayal of the attacks as a broadside against capitalism is making him more popular with conservatives than ever.
Now we are hearing that fury will be really unleashed on Mitt Romney in South Carolina. This will be the last attempt by Newt and the two Ricks to stay in the race, and desperation does make candidates do crazy things. Nevertheless, with two wins in his pocket, a 10 percent lead in the polls and $19 million cash on hand, Mitt Romney is now the presumptive nominee.
It is then important to examine whether the attacks on his private sector record will hurt Gov. Romney if he does capture the nomination. The Democrats of course scream "Yes!" but their own recent history says no.
In 2008 the general consensus was that the prolonged Democrat primary would hurt the eventual Democrat nominee by leaving him or her bloodied and weakened for the general election. Hillary Clinton and her supporters launched full scale attacks on Barack Obama, his policies, associations (remember Reverend Jeremiah Wright?), and perceived inexperience. Unwittingly, by doing so Mrs. Clinton ended up doing Mr. Obama a favor. By the time the general election rolled around, those issues were old news and were useless to Sen. John McCain.
Similarly, Gingrich, Perry, and former Sen. Rick Santorum are throwing anything and everything at Mitt Romney, even if the attacks make them sound as if they are left of Al Gore. In doing so they may just be doing Mitt Romney a service by making Bain Capital such a big story in January that it is old news when it really counts in November.