It was Romney whose sometimes maladroit comments — “I like being able to fire people” — were taken out of context but nonetheless helped fuel claims by the Democrats that he was a wealthy plutocrat, an out-of-touch businessman who didn’t understand the lives of working people.
By the time Romney effectively wrapped up the Republican nomination, he was supposedly carrying so much baggage that it would take months for him to shed — if he was able to shed it at all.
Democrats paid lip service to the notion that, because of the economy, the election would be close. Privately, they had such low regard for Romney they didn’t see how he could win. Some Republicans were dubious, too.
As Romney struggled, Obama and his advisers were able to lie back and tend to business. They had a year to raise money, build another grass-roots army, hone a message and test attack ads as they watched Romney get carved up in a lengthy intraparty battle. They never doubted he would be their opponent but thought less of him the longer the GOP fight went on.
At the same time, they started organizing more than a year ago amid news reports that theirs would be the billion-dollar campaign, even though top advisers always dismissed that figure as media hype. They had a candidate who, despite facing stiff economic head winds and missing the magic of 2008, was battle-tested and sure-footed. They entered the general election with the conventional wisdom on their side.
Over the past 10 days, Obama and the Democrats got a taste of what Romney was going through during the winter and early spring. First there was the intra-party angst, fueled by questions about Clinton’s dependability after he seemed to undermine the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital by saying Romney had a sterling business record.
Then came the employment report that showed the economy had added just 69,000 jobs in May, which renewed concerns among Democrats about how competitive the election might actually be and about whether Obama had any new ideas for fixing things.
Then came another Clinton moment, when he had to walk back a comment saying that the Bush tax cuts, even those for the wealthiest Americans, might have to be extended temporarily because the economy was weak — a comment 180 degrees off from the position of the White House.