Des Moines, IA--Mitt Romney seems to have found a constant companion on the campaign trail these days. It's not his wife. And it's not any of the revolving cast of veep wannabees who have hit the hustings with the presumptive nominee over these last weeks.


It's Bill Clinton.  

(Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

"Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over, even a former George McGovern campaign worker, like President Clinton, was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem," Romney said. "President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship."

Romney has invoked Clinton in previous speeches, but this time he went a bit further, suggesting that there is something more under the surface between Clinton and Obama.
 "It's enough to make you wonder if maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons," Romney said.  "Probably, it runs much deeper than that."

Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop, Tuesday, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The strategy, of course, is obvious, if a little heavy handed—paint Obama as more like Jimmy Carter, rather than as a New Democrat in the mold of Clinton.
Clinton has already emerged as one of Obama's most visible surrogates, appearing in a video marking the death of Osama bin Laden, and will likely be used to gin up support among so-called Reagan Democrats—white, blue collar workers,  particularly—and Romney can perhaps mute some of Clinton's power by suggesting that Clinton isn't all in with Obama.
(It's a beef, not a bromance, Romney suggests.)
But by invoking Clinton, Romney risks poking the bear in some ways, and perhaps even casting himself as a version of Clinton. Praising Clinton, even in a backhanded way, isn't exactly a way to solidify support among the religious right.

In his speech Tuesday, Romney cast the national debt and deficit as an out of control prairie fire, wrapping himself in "kitchen table" values and sounding the alarm over spending.
"We can't spend another four years talking about solving a problem that we know that we're making worse every single day," Romney said.  "A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and across the nation.  And every day that we fail to act that fire gets closer to the homes and the children we love."

Romney added to applause: "I will work with you to make sure that we put out this spending and borrowing fire."

The Obama campaign responded with this: "While Mitt Romney’s speech today was heavy on dishonest claims about President Obama’s record, it was noticeably lacking in any mention of Romney’s own record of increasing spending and debt in Massachusetts and his failure to lay out a plan to pay for his $5 trillion tax plan," said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman in a statement.

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