Cory Booker: Have the Democrats figured out how to respond?

Team Romney is trying to milk the rogue comments by Obama ally Cory Booker for all they're worth. But Obama's press conference in Chicago has given his own team some ammunition.

By , Staff Writer

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    Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker speaks in Newark in April.
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It’s Day Three of "Booker-palooza," and Team Romney is milking it for all it can.

The Republicans are portraying comments from two more Democrats as supportive of Cory Booker – the rising-star mayor of Newark, N.J., and normally an Obama ally – who went rogue Sunday when he called an Obama ad criticizing Mitt Romney's old firm, Bain Capital, "nauseating."

Exhibit A: Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who said Tuesday on MSNBC, "I think Bain Capital was a very successful business."

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Exhibit B: Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who told the news outlet Buzzfeed that he found the Obama campaign's attack on Bain "very disappointing."

But a fuller examination of the comments shows that, in fact, the Democrats are getting their talking points together on the tricky subject of Bain's record in private equity, in which some businesses it got involved in succeeded and others failed.

When asked about Bain's ethics, Senator Warner avoided the question, asserting simply that the company was "very successful." Then Warner, himself a wealthy former businessman, sought to draw the distinction between the private sector and public service.

"I think they got a good return for their investors," Warner said of Bain. "That is what they were supposed to do. I think that when you’re in public life, though, what you’ve got is a different time horizon."

In government, he said, “you’ve got to invest for the long haul."

Warner was essentially following the lead of President Obama, who addressed the Bain-Booker flap at a press conference Monday in Chicago.

"My view of private equity is that it is set up to maximize profits, and that’s a healthy part of the free market," Obama said. But the role of president is different, he continued. "My job is to take into account everybody, not just some," he said. "My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but 10 years from now and 20 years from now."

Mr. Rendell, who is also former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, did call Obama campaign ads attacking Bain’s role in a failed Indiana company "very disappointing." But he also echoed another point Obama made Monday: "I think Bain is fair game, because Romney has made it fair game," Rendell told Buzzfeed. He also said he admires Booker, but wished the Newark mayor had qualified and framed his comments better.

Vice President Joe Biden also repeated Obama’s talking points at a campaign event Tuesday in Keene, N.H. – throwing in a little Bidenism for good measure.

"I’m not criticizing private equity firms," Mr. Biden said. "But I'm suggesting the people who run them, the same quality and objective of running a private equity firm is not what qualifies you to be president."

Then Biden likened Romney to a plumber. Being a "private equity guy ... no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber," Biden said, according to Politico. "And, by the way, there are a lot of awful smart plumbers."

"All kidding aside, it’s not the same job requirement," he continued, just making clear the plumber thing was a joke. 

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is doing all it can to keep the Booker-Bain flap alive as long as possible. By the RNC’s count, the ranks of Democrats making disparaging comments about Obama’s anti-Bain ads is "six and counting," including Booker, Warner, and Rendell. Also on the list are former Rep. Harold Ford (D) of Tennessee, former Obama "car czar" Steve Rattner, and Obama fundraiser Don Peebles.

"I think it’s difficult to attack or demonize an industry and then take money from it," Mr. Peebles, a Miami real estate investor, said in a May 15 Buzzfeed article.

The RNC also released a web video trying to make hay out of conflicting statements over whether Booker had been contacted by the Obama campaign about his off-message comments.

One person who hasn’t been heard from in the Booker-Bain flap is Jonathan Lavine, a current Bain executive (and co-owner of the Boston Celtics) who is also one of Obama’s top fundraisers. Mr. Lavine served for a time on the board of Bain-owned Ampad, the company that took over the Marion, Ind., office-supply factory that eventually went bankrupt - and was featured in an Obama ad attacking Romney.

"Jonathan Lavine was not at Bain Capital when Ampad was acquired by the firm, and was not involved [in] the investment during the challenging situation at the Marion plant," said Alex Stanton, a spokesman for Bain Capital, in a statement to ABC News.

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