So far this year, the media has spent more time fretting about Barack Obama's negativity than it has on any of the arguments that were being mounted. Was Obama going too negative? Was it too soon? Oh no what is happening, in politics? And so the Obama campaign was broadly deemed to have "stumbled out of the gates." All of this presented Mitt Romney with a unique opportunity to come into June as the high-minded, positive candidate. Out of the gutter, above the fray, just talkin' economy with the folks, Obama is a nice guy who is in over his head. So we're at a loss to explain why Romney picked this week to cede this advantage, or at the very least risk, it by crawling down into the gutter himself. He closes out the month with a series of stunts that come across as either base or weird or vindictive, and none were absolutely necessary.
Karl Rove has millions of dollars to indulge his political id. So while we may be in a weird period of focus-group recommended restraint these days, don't expect the restraint to continue. There are reasons for this. It's an article of faith among a large portion of the GOP base that Sen. John McCain lost in 2008 because he wasn't willing to throw heat at Barack Obama and turn the month of October into an all-Jeremiah-Wright-all-the-time sick-a-doo fiesta. Last week's revelation of a proposed ad campaign to do just that served as a reminder that there are plenty of people with money to burn who've a yen to fight the 2012 battle from the gutter. And if Republicans are reminded too much of McCain's perceived failures as they watch Romney prosecute the Obama administration in a too-gentle fashion, they could end up discouraged.