WASHINGTON -- Ever since President Barack Obama began aggressively attacking Mitt Romney for his record running Bain Capital, there has been debate over just how effective the attacks might be. Recent swing state polling suggests the ads are working.
But what do people think after they've just watched attacks on Bain? In the 2002 Massachusetts governor's race, a focus group of 11 suburban women were asked just that about ads paid for by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shannon O'Brien's campaign.
The videotaped session, obtained by The Huffington Post, shows that GOP presidential candidate Romney had a sympathetic audience. Most appeared to view the candidate's business record and experience running the Salt Lake City Olympics as positives. But nearly everyone in the room found the anti-Bain ads damning. The women were especially drawn to the testimonials from workers who saw their jobs cut by Romney's firm.
"Is he going to be able to focus on the less fortunate which is the better part of America?" wondered one woman after viewing the ads.
The ads seemed to cut past the campaign rhetoric. Others talked about being touched by the ads, which they described as "emotional." "I had great empathy for the workers who were displaced," explained one focus group participant.
In another focus group also in 2002, recently reported on by HuffPost, the women raised similar complaints about Romney that continue to echo in the presidential race. He seems "a little bit cocky and arrogant," one woman said. "It's hard to say who he is," complained another.
They too wondered if he could relate to the middle class. "I think of him as very conservative and I am not sure that translates to reaching out to helping the bulk of the people," worried one woman.
Another participant, who said she worked in the financial industry, saw through Romney's belief in a private-sector fix for the state's budget woes. For all the rhetoric about bottom lines, there was a human cost that Romney wasn't willing to address.
"In terms of my business -- by the way I do taxes and financial plannings -- I deal with money all the time. I think being a true business man and a bottom-line person, which is what I suspect that he is, can be detrimental," she said, adding later. "To run a state, you have human issues."
You can watch highlight clips from the session below. Note: The identities of the participants have been obscured to protect their anonymity. The people behind the focus group requested anonymity as well.
Romney's Bottom Line
Doubts About Romney
Who is Mitt Romney?
A Little Bit Cocky