There are two ways to respond to an onslaught of negative, vicious attacks. One is to say they are negative and vicious and to try to disprove them. But like birthers, the ones making the attacking continue to claim there is an “open question.” The other is to go on offense.

Romney seems to have seized the opportunity to pivot away from talking about when he resigned and his tax returns to this revelation about Obama’s underlying philosophy. In a speech in Pennsylvania he hit his stride:

There is a reason the Romney campaign is highlighting this. Combined with the real possibility that we are heading to 1 % (or less) growth, Obama’s rag on individual merit allows Romney to combine two critical points: the economy is terrible and Obama is making it worse. The reason why Obama has to go, he can argue, is that he’s soaked in the toxic philosophy of anti-capitalism.

There is a moral case to be made here as well. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), picking up where he left off in his interview with Jim Pethokoukis, took to Facebook. It’s worth reading in full, but here is the core of the argument:

The President recently suggested that a central government — not individuals — deserves the credit for building successful businesses. This sentiment makes for terrible economics, but also reveals a confused morality. In a free community, everyone co-operates by voluntarily offering unique gifts: some invent, some invest, others labor, or sell while customers reward the best producers and providers by buying their products and services. . . . A free economy and strong communities are the best means to reward effort with justice, to promote upward mobility, and to build solidarity among citizens. The President’s vision of a government-centered society — reflected in both his troubling rhetoric and his failed policies — belittles fair rewards for labor and enterprise.

There it is — the argument against Obama’s collectivism. Whether Ryan is on the ticket or not, he is already articulating the best message Romney can deliver, made possible by the president’s own words.

This is not an isolated Obama “gaffe,” of course. Obama’s philosophy has been spelled out again and again. Recall the “Life of Julia” Web site in which the Obama campaign tooted its own horn in the “make them wards of the state” department.

And he has repeatedly argued individual effort is swamped by collective action with government as the driving force. In his bore-a-thon in Cleveland he declared at one point during th 54-minute ordeal: “We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did those things together. We sent my grandfather’s generation to college on the GI Bill — together. (Applause.) We instituted a minimum wage and rules that protected people’s bank deposits — together. (Applause.) Together, we touched the surface of the moon, unlocked the mystery of the atom, connected the world through our own science and imagination.”

Before Congress in his jobs speech in September 2011, Obama set forth one of his infamous strawmen arguments:

But what we can’t do — what I will not do — is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. (Applause.) I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. (Applause.) We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe we can win that race. (Applause.)

In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own — that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.

Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.

But there’s always been another thread running throughout our history — a belief that we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.

We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. Founder of the Republican Party. But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future — a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad — (applause) — launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. (Applause.) And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

Ask yourselves — where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the G.I. Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?

No government or Obamacare. No government or another stimulus bill. You didn’t earn anything and government is everything. For an “intellectual,” he sure lacks nuance.

Alas, the strawman has come home to roost. Obama has been painting a cartoon version of opponents for years.. And lo and behold he’s revealed himself to be the very caricature of the anti-business, government-is-all liberal Republicans have claimed him to be. Romney caught a break when he needed it.Game on.