There's a lot of chatter–and presumably more to come–about this Politico story today (8/9/11):
Obama Plan: Destroy Romney
By Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin
August 9, 2011 04:29 AM EDT
Barack Obama's aides and advisers are preparing to center the president's reelection campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney's character and business background, a strategy grounded in the early-stage expectation that the former Massachusetts governor is the likely GOP nominee.
It's a safe bet that the Obama campaign, being a political campaign, will engage in some pretty rough stuff. But this piece makes it sound like something terrible is already happening. (Look at the headline!)
Politico talks about a "dramatic and unabashedly negative turn" in a campaign that hasn't really started, but concludes nonetheless that
the candidate who ran on "hope" in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.
Smith and Martin explain:
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."
I'm not sure how that would necessarily qualify as a plot to "destroy" Romney. It's been more or less the consensus view after his 2008 campaign that Romney had trouble with authenticity–something Republicans have talked about.
They go on:
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.
They're going to use his record against him?!
The piece goes on to say that the campaign will make an issue of Romney's flip flops–again, I'm not sure how this is any different than saying they're going to run a political campaign.
The piece talks about how Obama's campaign has studied Bush's 2004 campaign against John Kerry; they seem to express some professional admiration of the Bush team's ability to turn the campaign into something other than a vote on Bush's first term in office. This doesn't seem all that remarkable, given that campaigns study other successful campaigns in order to figure out what made them successful.
I don't doubt Obama's people feel like they'll need to play dirty in order to win. There's some speculation that "weird" means "talking about his Mormonism." That could be true (and an unwillingness to vote for a Mormon has held pretty steady in polling on potential candidates).
But thinking they'll do any of this is different than actually showing that they're doing it. Politico's role in Beltway journalism is to try and drive the narrative; they're already out now with a "Romney campaign responds to Obama campaign" piece.