The New York Times:
Propelled by a torrent of blistering television advertisements, President Obama is successfully invoking Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital to raise questions about Mr. Romney’s commitment to the middle class, strategists in both parties say, as the candidates engage in a critical summer duel to set the terms for this fall.
Despite doubts among some centrist Democrats about the wisdom of attacking Mr. Romney’s business career, millions of dollars in negative commercials painting him as a ruthless executive who pursued profits at the expense of jobs are starting to make an impact on undecided voters in swing states, according to strategists from both sides.
The strategists agree that the ads are having an effect but differ on whether Mr. Romney is suffering any substantial damage.
While the sense of worry and alarm that has hung over the White House for weeks is dissipating, and with his supporters relieved by the Supreme Court decision on Thursday to uphold most of his health care law, Mr. Obama faces new challenges in the period from now to the conventions at the end of the summer.
People close to the Romney campaign say it could close its June fund-raising books having collected an additional $100 million, possibly more, a tally that would exceed all expectations and further extend the overall Republican financial advantage in the race.
With that cash influx, Mr. Romney’s team is preparing a new advertising campaign that will aggressively portray Mr. Obama as a craven political figure, rather than the transformative leader he pledged to be.
They began that effort in the past several days with a new ad that uses video of Hillary Rodham Clinton lashing out at Mr. Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary campaign as spending “millions of dollars perpetuating falsehoods.”
Aides said they were considering more ads with Mrs. Clinton or her husband criticizing Mr. Obama.
(...) Mr. Romney’s aides said in interviews that their strategy depends on keeping their candidate close to Mr. Obama in the polls until at least the Republican convention at the end of August. They hope to then begin to pull away with a relentless case that Mr. Obama has not been up to the job of fixing the economy — and that Mr. Romney has the experience and know-how to lead the nation to recovery.
They have studiously avoided getting drawn into what they have called side issues. And at times they have limited Mr. Romney’s media appearances, even after the health care decision, which conservatives believe will help motivate voters who now see electing Mr. Romney as the only chance to repeal the health law.
But Mr. Romney’s strategy of avoiding clashes on issues other than the economy and minimizing his risks — he has no public events scheduled until the Fourth of July — is starting to draw criticism even from some fellow Republicans, who are urging him to take more specific stands and set out a more positive agenda.
(...) According to the independent media tracking firm CMAG, between early April and late June Mr. Obama spent at least $40 million and Mr. Romney at least $10 million, with outside groups like Crossroads GPS and Restore Our Future making up the difference for him.
(...) Strategists with both parties said independent voters speaking in focus groups had indicated that they had seen the [Bain] ads or heard their charges and that they had raised questions in their minds about Mr. Romney’s past experience.
(...) And officials with Mr. Romney’s campaign said that whatever questions the advertisements might have raised, they had not shifted opinions away from a general belief among swing voters that Mr. Romney is “the guy to fix the economy” and that he “will actually get the job done,” said Mr. Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse.
More important, they said, Mr. Romney remains in a statistical tie with Mr. Obama at a time when Mr. Romney is still recovering from his rough primary fight and scrambling to raise money.
“As you start to put together a general election campaign, it’s when an incumbent president should be at his strongest,” said Stuart Stevens, a senior Romney strategist. “They’ve been preparing for this moment for three and a half years, and we’ve been in a primary until very recently.”
Even with the political terrain newly settled by the Supreme Court’s decision, neither side expects the campaign to move beyond its dogfight status before the party conventions and the debates.
“It’s going to be very close,” Mr. Plouffe said in an interview. “We’re not looking for — and don’t expect — seismic movement.”