When a presidential candidate has a perceived political vulnerability, count on his intraparty rivals to go after it hard even if they wind up eventually helping the efforts of the opposition party's White House candidate.
That's essentially what we're seeing as Mitt Romney's fellow GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry attack the front-runner for his experience heading Bain Capital, a private-equity firm whose investments in companies were sometimes followed by layoffs of workers.
In recent days, attempting to tap into voters' anxieties over job security and disgust at Wall Street, Gingrich hammered Romney for the layoffs. At debates over the weekend, Gingrich said Romney and his colleagues at Bain "looted" a company and caused 1,700 people to lose their jobs.
A super PAC called "Winning Our Future" run by Gingrich supporters is poised to release a 27-minute-plus trailer of a documentary called When Romney Came to Town that includes poignant interviews of some of those laid-off workers.
Gingrich's allies have reportedly made a $3.4 million ad buy in South Carolina to get the message behind the documentary out.
Meanwhile, campaigning in South Carolina on Monday, Perry also lit into Romney for the layoffs. Romney made a statement Monday that he sometimes himself feared getting a pink slip when he was in the private sector.
An excerpt from Politico's report on what Perry said at a South Carolina campaign event Monday:
"I had to shake my head yesterday when one of the wealthiest men, I suppose, that's ever run for the presidency of the United States — the son of a multimillionaire — Mitt Romney, he said 'I know what it's like to worry about whether you're going to get fired,'" Perry said at a restaurant here. "There were a couple of times when I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip. He actually said this. Now, I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips, whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out. Because his company Bain Capital, with all the jobs that they killed. I'm sure he was worried he'd run out of pink slips."
You could easily imagine President Obama, or the head of an American labor union, making the same points as Gingrich and Perry. Indeed, Democrats already are and will only increase the intensity of this part of their case against Romney as the weeks and months pass.
Still, it's interesting to see that it's Republicans who are serving as the tip of the spear, so to speak, of the Democrats' argument against Romney.
This sort of thing happens frequently. In 1980 after George H. W. Bush attacked Ronald Reagan's belief in supply-side economics as "voodoo" economics, Democrats picked up the nifty attack line.
Just four years ago in 2008, Hillary Clinton raised questions about Obama's relatively short resume of national and foreign policy experience by openly doubting that he would be able to take that famous 3 a.m. call.
Sen. John McCain, as the Republican nominee, used Clinton's attack in the general election, even citing her by name.
The Republican attacks on Romney's Bain years will, to a degree, help Obama and other Democrats fend off Romney's counterattack that they don't understand and aren't friendly to capitalism and free markets.
Obama will be able to respond: "Were Gingrich and Perry enemies of the free market, too?"