After launching full-throated attacks against Mitt Romney's business record earlier this week, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich are now backing off the Bain bashing. ABC's Arlette Saenz reports from South Carolina that Perry debuted the term "vulture capitalism" on Tuesday, but by Wednesday afternoon, the line of attack was removed from his speech.
Gingrich, according to one GOP source I spoke with, has been getting pressure to lay off the attacks by some of his donors who are worried that it could brand him as anti-capitalist. Our ABC reporter Elicia Dover has been following Gingrich all day as he stumps through the state and reports that he has not uttered a word about Bain - yet.
Even Mike Huckabee, who brandished a populist attack against Romney in 2008, defends his former foe in a newsletter to supporters, where he chastises Republicans who have embraced a "leftwing argument against capitalism." So, it looks like Romney may have dodged a bullet. But is that really such a good thing?
No candidate relishes a contentious intra-party primary fight. Or, at least few candidates do. But, like most things in life, competition makes a contender stronger in the end.
There's plenty of evidence, for example, that his epic battle with Hillary Clinton made Barack Obama a better candidate and campaigner. He faced the strongest Democratic political operation in the country - and beat it. Ronald Reagan became a better candidate thanks to a serious challenge from George H.W. Bush. George W. Bush's battle with John McCain helped him shake the perception that he wasn't ready for the big leagues.
If Romney were forced to defend his corporate record now, he'd have the chance to practice and ultimate hone his response to what everyone knows is going to be the main attack against him this fall. And, as we saw with last week's "pink slip" and "I like to be able to fire people" lines, Romney could use some practice on the whole responding to the attacks thing.
Furthermore, the more that Romney's corporate past becomes part of the debate/story now, the less potent attacks on it may be later on.
As one Democratic strategist noted, any tough ad put out against him post-primary will be new news to voters and he won't have had time to effectively road-test his response.