Let’s get right to the read of the morning: A group of high profile GOP operatives, bankrolled by a conservative billionaire, is hatching a plan to run millions of dollars worth of ads tying “Barack Hussein Obama” to that old standby, Jeremiah Wright. The operative theory here is that Romney should not repeat the mistake John McCain made in ruling this attack line off limits.
The New York Times reports:
“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. Mr. Ricketts is increasingly putting his fortune to work in conservative politics.
The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”
How will the group rebut those “race-baiting” charges? Easy: By hiring “an extremely literate conservative African American” spokesperson to make the case that Obama misled the nation by falsely portraying himself as a “metrosexual black Abe Lincoln.”
This is yet another version of the fantasy that won’t die, which is that Obama was elected president because he somehow wasn’t thoroughly vetted, and that one of these days the American people will finally have a grand revelatory moment about Obama’s secret black radicalism and the elaborate ruse he has been perpetrating for literally years now to keep his true nature and agenda cleverly disguised.
It isn’t going to happen. This version of Obama is dramatically at odds with mainstream voter perceptions of the man, and only appeals to a very small minority that would never have accepted Obama’s persona at face value no matter what he did. Most Americans have formed their perceptions of Obama’s character, values and story — he’s been in the White House for more than three years — and whether or not they reelect him, those perceptions aren’t going to change.
It’s likely that there will be some pressure on the Romney campaign today to condemn this planned campaign. Stay tuned.
* Obama leads Romney, but the economy still looms large: The new Fox News poll has Obama leading Romney nationally by six points, 46-39, but crucially, Romney still is seen as better on the economy:
By a 13-percentage-point margin, voters would pick Romney over Obama to manage their personal money (47 percent to 34 percent). The former governor also comes out on top as the better business partner (48 to 39 percent). Voters think Romney would do a better job creating jobs by a slim 2-point margin (43 to 41 percent).
As noted here yesterday, voters seem open to the premise that Romney’s business background equips him to turn around a whole country’s economy faster than Obama has, which is why Obama advisers are working so hard to redefine those years.
* Bain battle playing out in the states: The Obama campaign is circulating local press clippings to demonstrate how local media is treating criticism of Romney’s Bain years — here are two examples from Florida, two examples from Ohio, and one from Minnesota.
The Obama strategy is designed to drive home how Romney’s Bain years impacted local communities in swing states. Obama’s team has long thought the way to reach independents is through the local press, so such coverage is key to whether the Bain attacks are working.
* Rove-founded group misleads voters with no accountability: David Firestone takes apart the misleading ad that Crossroads is running in its new $25 million campaign, and makes a key point. The real impact of anonymous outside money is that no one, the chief beneficiary of the ads included (Mitt Romney), can ever be held accountable for all the distortions and dissembling.
* Romney catching up with Obama’s fundraising: The Romney campaign has announced raising some $40 million in April, just shy of the $40.3 million Obama’s camp announced. The Romney camp will be financially competitive with Obama’s, but the Obama team had hoped their financial superiority over Romney would allow them to sink huge resources into the air wars with the pro-Romney outside groups, which will raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars.
* Romney’s silly invocation of Bill Clinton: Romney has taken to evoking Bill Clinton’s vision of centrist government to portray Obama in comparison as an off-the-rails lefty. But E.J. Dionne points out that Clinton raised taxes on the rich, and Obama wants to restore Clinton rates, while Romney wants to cut taxes on the rich even further.
I’d only add this: It’s true, as Romney says, that Clinton’s approach to taxation and government was relatively moderate and centrist. But the candidate whose approach is radically out of step with that of Clinton is Romney, and not Obama.
* Romney’s Clinton strategy: By the way, Romney’s invocation of Clinton wasn’t just a one-off. Politico reports that it is part of a concerted Romney strategy:
Republican strategists argue that Romney’s sudden affinity for Clinton comes at an opportune moment for the likely GOP presidential nominee. The Republican has a chance to argue that Obama is more liberal than some voters on key issues like same-sex marriage, deficit spending and health care reform. Laying claim to the Clinton legacy also allows Romney to move to the center after being forced to tack right in the GOP primary.
Perhaps Dems should push back on this by reminding voters how well the economy did under the Clinton-era tax rates that Obama wants to restore.
* Will gay marriage cost Obama North Carolina? Republicans are spinning a subplot that holds that Obama’s embrace of gay marriage will cost him North Carolina, which recently passed an anti-gay-marriage amendment, and that siting the Dem convention there has now been revealed as a major blunder. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina says he has no regrets, and says the campaign’s grassroots operation will still carry the state.
* Get ready for debt ceiling armageddon again: With John Boehner again threatening a debt ceiling standoff, House conservatives are already signaling that whatever spending cuts Boehner wins from Dems won’t be good enough for them, signaling another major test for the Speaker and another all-consuming political circus. A rerun of a bad movie...
* And GOP makes bid for youth vote: National Journal’s lead story today: Republicans are gearing up a variety of groups designed to persuade young voters — who are crucial to Obama’s hopes — that the sluggish recovery proves its really in their interests to vote Republican.
The possibility that the bad economy could dampen the youth vote’s enthusiasm is very real. So the Obama team will have to hope that Obama’s embrace of gay marriage (a defining cultural issue for young voters), and his stance on how to pay for the student loan extension (which young voters overwhelmingly agree with) can make up ground. Oh, and there’s also the fact that Republicans would repeal Obamacare, which extended coverage for the young.
By the way: what exactly are Romney and Republicans offering to young voters again, beyond the promise that if we just get government out of the way, the free market will shower them with opportunity and shared prosperity?