Mitt Romney has spent the past few weeks portraying President Barack Obama as an "old-school liberal" so out of touch with modern realities that he's a dinosaur even within his own party. To that point, he's tried in several recent speeches to pit the president against Bill Clinton, who famously declared that the era of big government was over during his administration.
Addressing a crowd in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, Romney took that divide-and-conquer effort to a more gossipy level, suggesting that the president was ignoring Clinton's approach out of some personal animus with the man. The campaign's prepared remark included the following:
Even a former McGovern campaign worker like President Clinton was signaling to his own Party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem.
President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship. It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons ... but really it runs much deeper.
The idea that there is "beef" between the two Democrats echoes a commonly trotted out theory (offered most recently in Ed Klein's controversial new Obama book) that the Clintons and Obama have mutual disdain and distrust for one another dating back to the 2008 primary. It's the same tactic that Sen. John McCain used against Obama, unsuccessfully, after that primary ended.
Clintonites are more comfortable with Obama now than back then -- meaning that the chance that Romney can actually peel off their votes is limited. But that's only one reason for putting the line in his speech. Another is to draw media attention to the notion of a Clinton-Obama divide. And a more important reason is to attack Obama as an antiquated Democrat, which Romney did later on in the address, as follows:
President Obama is an old-school liberal whose first instinct is to see free enterprise as the villain and government as the hero. America counted on President Obama to rescue the economy, tame the deficit and help create jobs. Instead, he bailed out the public sector, gave billions of dollars to the companies of his friends, and added almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article located the event in Ohio. It occurred in Iowa.