Why 2008 Obama is Mitt Romney’s best friend

August 31, 2012

TAMPA -- Mitt Romney made one thing very clear during his speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night: He’s happy to run against President Obama in 2012, but he’s even happier to run against the Barack Obama of 2008.

The one consistent element tying together Romney’s generally well-received address accepting the GOP nomination was the big hopes with which Obama came into office.

And at the pinnacle of his address, Romney offered a contrast.

By going small.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet,” the former Massachusetts governor said, as GOP delegates applauded. Romney added: “My promise is to help you and your family.”


That’s hyperbole, of course. Obama never really pledged to do those things, but that was the message that was ascribed to his campaign. And what was he to do in the midst of a presidential race but embrace it? Obama’s nomination speech in Denver in 2008 even featured what appeared to be Greek columns flanking him in a 75,000-seat football stadium that was commandeered to harness the huge enthusiasm behind his candidacy.

With that line, Romney was saying he’s not just the anti-Obama, but the anti-Obama-2008 -- he’s a businessman, not a mythical figure.

And he executed it with considerably more success than his predecessor as Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

Four years ago, McCain’s campaign offered an ad that likened Obama to celebrities including Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. The ad was largely derided as dismissive of Obama and underhanded politics from a guy fighting to get noticed.

Today, with three and half years under Obama’s belt as president and lingering economic problems, it’s an easier case to make. That’s because Obama has an all-too-human record.

In fact, the same high hopes that Obama rode into office and embraced with his "hope" and "change" message are one of his greatest obstacles in the 2012 campaign.

Obama’s message today is essentially that it could have been worse, and some progress is being made. That stands in stark contrast to the hopes the accompanied his 2008 election.

More and more in 2012, you can expect to see that dichotomy being drawn. Romney served notice Thursday that he’s ready to make Obama’s former world-beating image into a major campaign issue. Which is smart.

And the more he can drive that point home, the more likely he is to replace Obama as president.

Romney defends GM plant claim: GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is defending his attacks on Obama's role in a closed GM plant in Ryan's district.

In his speech Wednesday night, Ryan appeared to blame Obama for the closure of the GM plant in Janesville, but the media and fact-checkers were quick to point out that the plant actually was set to be closed in mid-2008, when President Bush was still president.

Ryan told CNN on Thursday that it wasn't his intention to connect those dots, and he continued the GOP attempts to make an issue of Obama 2008.

"I’m saying he came and made these promises, makes these commitments, sells people on the notion that he’s going to do all these great achievements, and then none of them occur," Ryan said. "These are empty promises that become broken promises, and that’s the story of the Obama economy.”

Fixbits:

TV ratings for this year's GOP convention are way down from four years ago, when Sarah Palin had just been picked as McCain's running mate and drove huge viewership.

A new independent poll in blue-leaning Michigan shows Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 46 percent, within the margin of error.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush uses his convention speech to implore Obama to stop blaming his brother, former President George W. Bush, for the country's ongoing economic problems.

Speaking of Florida, Al Gore calls for the abolition of the electoral college.

Democrats land a former Republican for their convention: independent Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

David Koch speaks out.

New York Magazine reports Palin's contract at Fox News may not be renewed.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) says he turned down an offer for a bigger role at the GOP convention. He showed up for less than a day.

Former top Newt Gingrich adviser Rick Tyler has joined Rep. Todd Akin's (R) embattled Missouri Senate campaign.

A Democratic poll shows Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) leading Republican Kim Vann 54 percent to 39 percent.

Must-reads:

"At Convention, Lines Blur Between Party and ‘Super PACs’" -- Nicholas Confessore, New York Times

"Base Turnout Strategy May Be Too Narrow for Romney" -- Nate Silver, New York Times

"A Reporter Who’s Part of the Story" -- Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times

"Outside convention, vendors and fringe politicians reign" -- David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Chris Cillizza · August 30, 2012