By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
DENVER, Aug. 26 -- Blocks away from the Democratic convention site Tuesday, Republicans waged an aggressive "Not Ready '08" counteroffensive led by Mitt Romney, a potential running mate for Sen. John McCain who was trying out the attack-dog role.
Romney ripped into Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Sen. Barack Obama's running mate, who was chosen in part because of his lengthy foreign policy résumé. "His record being wrong on foreign policy is as long as his years in foreign policy," Romney asserted, ticking off examples such as Biden's opposition to the troop buildup in Iraq and to the Cold War arms increase under President Ronald Reagan.
Romney touted his former GOP primary rival as a "true-blooded American hero" who is addressing "real issues" while Obama is "talking about bromides of such a generic nature that we don't know where he'd actually lead." Romney even conducted a television interview from inside the Pepsi Center as Democratic delegates gathered for a second-day program focused on domestic issues and featuring a prime-time speech by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The Republican National Committee set up its own Denver headquarters in an office building near downtown. The Republicans run a rapid-response operation there and even printed their own slick, official-looking mock credentials and signs under the "Not Ready '08" slogan, featuring Obama's image and the tag line "A mile high, an inch deep." The RNC announced that, on Wednesday, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael S. Steele and former U.S. treasurer Rosario Marin would hold a news conference to address "why Barack Obama is wrong on national security."
The GOP effort added to concerns among some Democrats that the Obama campaign has been too sluggish and soft about drawing a contrast with McCain. Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the focus will shift to McCain in the convention's final days, and he defended Monday night's speeches by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Michelle Obama as crucial opening chapters. "It's important that we tell people who Barack Obama is and where he wants to take this country," Burton asserted. Starting Tuesday night, he promised, "you'll see a lot more about the choice in this election."
Romney held back-to-back events that drew overflow crowds of reporters, and he unleashed a stream of sharp critiques about the Democratic team. Gone were all signs of his strained relationship with McCain during their GOP primary battle. "Every effort to try and portray John McCain as someone that doesn't connect with the American people will fall extraordinarily short -- just as short as the effort to say he's the continuation of George W. Bush," Romney said. "The American people recognize that's total baloney."
He issued a challenge on national security, saying that Obama has ignored "what Republicans consider to be the greatest threat of the civilized world," which he described as "radical, violent, Islamic jihadism."
Romney also dropped a reference to William Ayers, who Obama has socialized with in Chicago and who was a founding member of the Weather Underground, a radical 1960s group. He also cited Obama's relationship with Chicago developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who was convicted on corruption charges, although the case had nothing to do with Obama.
McCain is expected to announce his running mate as early as Friday, and Romney is considered a leading contender for the job, along with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge and independent Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.).
One of Romney's potential drawbacks as a running mate may be his enormous personal wealth, after Democrats jumped on a comment by McCain last week that he wasn't sure how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own. The total is eight.
"John McCain earned his homes through the hard work, insight and fortitude of his family and himself," Romney said. He added that the McCains use only four homes "for their personal living quarters" and that "I don't think the politics of envy end up being successful in the final analysis."
Asked how many houses he owns, Romney responded: "One less than John Kerry -- that's four."
In an interview on CNN, Romney was asked whether he would be ready to debate Biden in a potential vice presidential debate. Biden is an "impenetrable thicket of words," Romney replied. "I don't know if anyone is ready to debate him."
Romney was then shown clips from a Republican primary debate, where the former Massachusetts governor listed a litany of what he saw as McCain's faults, including that he is "outside the mainstream of Republican thought," and was a driving force behind the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill and the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill. And, Romney said in the clips, if you're endorsed by the New York Times -- as McCain was -- you're not a real Republican.
What did Romney say Tuesday?
"That just points out that John McCain is his own man," he said.
Staff writer Michael D. Shear, traveling with the McCain campaign, contributed to this report.