With the general election campaign in full swing, the presumptive Republican nominee plans to stage “prebuttal” and “rebuttal” speeches to Obama designed to try to force the president on the defensive.
Romney’s effort begins Wednesday, when he jets to Charlotte, which hosts the Democratic National Convention in September. Romney booked a rooftop venue with views of Bank of America Stadium — where Obama will formally accept his party’s nomination for reelection — to deliver what aides are billing as a prebuttal to Obama’s nomination speech.
Aides said Romney’s message will boil down to this: “Are you better off than you were four years ago, the last time Obama gave a convention speech?”
Also Wednesday, during Obama’s scheduled stop in Ohio, Romney’s campaign bus will be loaded up with state surrogates and local phone bank volunteers, and will drive circles around the Elyria community college where Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks on the economy. And aides said Romney is considering going to Ohio on Thursday to give his own speech on the economy.
This strategy, which campaign operatives call “bracketing,” is not new in presidential politics — or in the 2012 race.
Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee have been dogging Romney for months by putting local surrogates on conference calls with reporters pegged to Romney’s campaign stops. In February in Detroit, as Romney gave a speech at Ford Field, the DNC gathered a group of unionized autoworkers to spell out “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” atop car windshields on the roof of a nearby parking garage.
But by involving the candidate himself and his logo bus, the Romney team’s bracketing is particularly audacious and establishes a confrontational tone at the start of the general-election campaign.
“Our campaign is going to go toe to toe and post up against the Obama machine every day to help get the message out that Mitt Romney will be able to deliver what this president could not — and that’s a more-prosperous America,” said Gail Gitcho, communications director for the Romney campaign.
Romney’s aides hope to show Republicans that after a bruising and exhausting primary campaign, his team is taking on Obama immediately and aggressively. But with the bracketing efforts, Romney risks appearing as if he is resorting to campaign gimmicks by nipping at the president’s ankles.
“The Romney campaign’s strategy is clear: they will go to every end to distort the President’s record and policies because they know that voters will not elect Mitt Romney on his own merits,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in an e-mail.
Romney aides acknowledge the difficulty of taking on the incumbent and believe that to win in November, they not only have to articulate a broad vision but also have to win short news cycles.