“If you’re responding, you’re losing.” — Mitt Romney.
Under pressure, though, Mitt Romney has decided to respond to fears that he was being “swift-boated” by the Obama campaign's relentless attacks on his record at Bain Capital. His new ad is a classic of the political genre; instead of answering the specific charges against his supposed “outsourcing” of jobs, the ad makes Obama’s tactics themselves the issue. The ad asks, “When a president doesn’t tell the truth, how do we trust him to lead?” and goes on with the 30 year-old political ad convention of showing a bunch of newspaper quotes that supposedly refute Obama’s charges.
Romney’s advisors hope that their ad will provide blanket protection against Obama’s attacks by undermining the character of the president. If you believe the president is a liar, then nothing he says can hurt Romney. But if you are willing to believe Obama is a liar, your opinion of him is already so low that you weren't going to vote for him anyway. Thus, I think Romney's ad fails badly because it attacks the president's greatest strength — his character — and doesn't reassure independent voters on the specifics of his charges. Maybe this is the ugly road Romney has chosen, and if he devotes hundreds of millions of dollars to this line of attack, perhaps his campaign will make inroads. But if the Obama campaign sees signs of that, the response will be swift and effective. Let's just say that many of Mitt Romney's issue contortions over the years strain his credulity way past the breaking point.