With the usual caveats about early polls being unreliable and that there is "still a long way to go" in the primary campaign, let's stipulate for the sake of argument that it's not unreasonable to imagine that when all is said and done, it's going to be former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney that walks away with the nomination. It's true that Romney hasn't always been widely embraced by the GOP base. And it's also true that there are forces aligned against him -- other candidates, the FreedomWorks wing of the Tea Party, failed Alaska senatorial candidate Joe Miller -- and Romney will not have an easy task getting through that thicket.
Still, he is last cycle's silver medalist, and he's generally thought of as electable, and his pals form secretive, temporary corporations to funnel him money, so it's not the worst bet to take. It makes sense, then, that the team tasked with President Barack Obama's reelection have decided to orient their campaign around the assumption that they'll be facing Romney and that they'd focus their fire on Romney's key vulnerabilities. What doesn't make sense is that, rather than develop a strategy behind closed doors and keep it to themselves, they've decided to go tell Politico what they plan to do:
"Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney," said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.
The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama's reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama's advisers in about a dozen interviews, "weird."
"First, they've got to like you, and there's not a lot to like about Mitt Romney," said Chicago Democratic consultant Pete Giangreco, who worked on Obama's 2008 campaign. "There's no way to hide this guy and hide his innate phoniness."
A senior Obama adviser was even more cutting, suggesting that the Republican's personal awkwardness will turn off voters.
"There's a weirdness factor with Romney, and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public," the adviser said, noting that the contrasts they'd drive between the president and the former Massachusetts governor would be "based on character to a great extent."
The second aspect of the campaign to define Romney is his record as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm that was responsible for both creating and eliminating jobs. Obama officials intend to frame Romney as the very picture of greed in the great recession -- a sort of political Gordon Gekko.
O-kay, so that's the plan: convince people that Mitt Romney is weird (which could just mean "phony" and "awkward," because surely Romney is not so "weird" that the White House wouldn't use his health care reform idea as the basis for their own) and ... like Gordon Gekko, who was a pop-cultural staple of the late 1980s (recent Shia LaBoeuf-enabled resurrection attempts notwithstanding).
The Romney campaign has already responded to this plan. That's a natural consequence of letting the Romney campaign know what the plan is. Romney's team calls the Obama plan "disgraceful" and "despicable." Of course, the Romney campaign undoubtedly has a plan of their own. It could be just as "disgraceful" and "despicable." Or, it could be brilliant. But the smartest part of Romney's plan, by far, is that it's not been revealed in Politico.
I'm sure this strategy makes sense to somebody!
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