Just this week, Obama’s team blasted the GOP’s apparent front-runner, Mitt Romney, over his shifting assessments of the president’s economic record.
In Iowa, as former Minnesota governor
Tim Pawlenty began a campaign swing Wednesday, he was welcomed with a Democratic Party online video featuring Minnesotans complaining about rising property taxes — with one man saying: “I just don’t understand why this guy thinks he can run for president.”
Obama aides and Democratic officials have fired shots recently at other Republican candidates, as well, including former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).
The exchanges show that Obama and his lieutenants have no intention of sitting quietly by while GOP voters pick their nominee. Democratic officials are reaching into the fray to test out lines of attack against potential 2012 opponents — and maybe make some mischief along the way.
This week, however, Democrats have trained their attention for the most part on Romney. The former Massachusetts governor is trying to solidify his status as the leader in a still-unsettled Republican field. He has maintained his standing in early polls, is assembling a deep organization nationwide and is raising exponentially more money than his opponents. The Romney campaign said Wednesday it had raised $18.25 million over the past three months , while a new outside political action committee run by his allies raised $12 million over the first half of the year.
Some Democrats said they increasingly view Romney as the GOP field’s greatest credible threat should he survive the party primary process.
“He’s the only one who’s plausible,” said Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who has tested public impressions of Romney in recent surveys. “He looks like he could be president. . . . He’s indicated that there’s some path that he could run as a non-extremist presidential candidate.”
A June poll of likely voters by Greenberg’s Democracy Corps group found Romney in a statistical tie with Obama in a hypothetical general election matchup.
Most distressing to Democrats is Romney’s potential appeal to centrist independent voters, a majority of whom swung to Obama in 2008 but who now appear far less smitten.
Unlike many of his rivals, these Democrats say, Romney has presented more centrist views on health care and climate change that could attract swing voters. Greenberg found 42 percent of independents supporting or leaning toward Obama, compared with 44 percent leaning toward or backing Romney.
Another Greenberg survey, a straw poll of liberal activists who attended last month’s Netroots Nation convention, suggested that Romney is viewed in the Democratic base as the greatest threat. A clear plurality — 39 percent of the more than 500 respondents – cited Romney as the candidate they would least like to see win the GOP nomination.