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So much for 'character assassination'

As recently as five days ago, Mitt Romney argued that any criticism of his controversial private-sector background was evidence "character assassination," and an attack on capitalism itself.

It's a curious way to stifle debate, isn't it? To hear the Republican candidate tell it, he could make Bain Capital the centerpiece of his campaign, but criticism of his business tactics has no place in the public discourse.

Yesterday, however, the line appears to have been moved. As Rachel noted last night, former Gov. John Sununu (R-N.H.), one of the most prominent Romney surrogates, told reporters, "I think the Bain record, as a whole, is fair game."

What's more, Priorities USA Action released this video:

In the two-minute clip, we see several prominent Republicans -- including Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, and Sarah Palin -- all of whom agree that Romney's leveraged buyouts and mass layoffs are a legitimate subject for campaign debate.

So, which is it? Is Romney right when he characterizes this scrutiny as "character assassination" and an attack on free enterprise, or is Romney's surrogate and fellow Republicans right when they say Bain Capital is fair game?