My colleague Greg Sargent asks in a tweet: “[H]ow many times do lefties need to get burned by anonym[ous] quotes before learning from it?” The question is rhetorical; the topic is this piece from Politico’s Ben Smith:
In a move that will make some Democrats shudder, Obama’s high command has even studied President George W. Bush’s 2004 takedown of Sen. John F. Kerry, a senior campaign adviser told POLITICO, for clues on how a president with middling approval ratings can defeat a challenger.
“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.” . . .
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.
It’s not exactly news that Obama will need to go negative to win in 2012, but Ben’s quotes do add some color. (Nervous lefties in the blogosphere speculated that the quoted sources might be peripheral figures in the Obama team; Knowing Ben as I do, I’m confident he didn’t pepper his story with a bunch of nobodies.)
An Obama spokesperson scurried forth to deny (sort of) that the quoted sources spoke on behalf of the campaign. The reason he would deny it, of course, is that it gives Romney bragging rights and the chance to turn around the purported Obama strategy into evidence of desperation. The Romney camp fired off a statement: “It is disgraceful that President Obama’s campaign has launched his re-election with the stated goal to ‘kill’ his opponent with an onslaught of negative and personal attacks. President Obama will say and do desperate things to hold onto power because he knows he has failed. Neither despicable threats, nor President Obama’s billion dollar negative campaign, will put Americans back to work, save their homes, or restore their hopes. On November 6, 2012, this will change.”
And Kevin Madden, Romney’s 2008 spokesman and an enthusiastic non-campaign supporter this time around, turned to Politico’s Arena (nice touch, Madden!) to blast the president. A sample:
Candidate Obama, who promised our nation big things, has now shriveled into a weak, small-minded president reduced to ugly character attacks to save one job — his own — while failing the millions of Americans now without a job of their own under his watch.
A GOP operative not on the Romney campaign e-mailed me: “Is this the same Obama team from 2008 because this is an amateur mistake. One has to wonder if there is some diabolical thing behind the Obama campaign being quoted but after witnessing the last two and a half years, it’s clear the Obama guys aren’t capable of diabolical.” He observed, “This is the single greatest thing to help Mitt Romney that the Obama people could have done.”
You can understand why Obama’s minders wouldn’t appreciate the super-duper-not-secret-at-all strategy getting out. This, of course, all comes at a most unfortunate time for the Obama camp. The markets are crashing and his base is lambasting him (you know things are bad for Obama when Daily Beast links to me). The last thing Obama needs is a Kinsleyan gaffe; that is, a politician caught telling the truth.
Political observers and operatives understand that Obama’s economic and foreign policy record is so bad that the only hope for Obama (absent a dramatic turnaround) is that the Republicans will name someone unacceptable to a majority of voters and/or the Obama attack machine can turn the nominated Republican into an unacceptable choice.