The actual Republican presidential nominee is proving much more formidable than the Obama team imagined he would be. (Byron York writes of the Romney visit to Solyndra: “Thursday marked a new escalation in the day-to-day fighting between the Obama and Romney campaigns. And Team Romney hopes it has sent a very clear message that it will punch, and counter-punch, as hard as is necessary.”) Gone is the candidate who couldn’t defend his Bain successes. Gone is the candidate who appeared embarrassed by his own wealth.

Conservatives view this with amazement and grudging admiration. Who is this guy? Had he been so ruthlessly effective from the get-go he might have wrapped up the race in February.

Liberals are also stunned but worried and nervous. They rub their eyes in disbelief that this is the same guy who once lacked a message and seemed determined to give fodder to the liberal media. Now confronted with a sharply hewn message, a gaffe-free candidate and an aggressive campaign running circles around the once-feared Obama team, they are understandably peeved. It is as if a ringer showed up on game day.

So rather than run against him, why not run against Donald Trump or Rush Limbaugh? That’s what the left punditocracy would like voters to imagine. Except the strategy is as flawed as running against Romney’s Bain experience or the “war on women” or any of the other Obama-friendly stunts.

The “run against somebody else” canard is especially weak since no one thinks of Romney as Trump-like or Limbaugh-like. He’s the least conformational, the least ideological of the Republicans who ran for president. And that nearly cost him the nomination. It just doesn’t work to associate Romney with figures whose views and demeanor he doesn’t. share. Really, do the Obama adherents think voters will confuse Romney with people not on the ballot, not in office and not even, in some cases, enamored of him?

In addition, this, like the long list of distracting gambits that have fizzled of late, only tend to reinforce Obama’s own weakness and his exceptionally rocky campaign start. He’s only able to beat a mythical ticket with Trump in it? Puleez.

And finally, the idea that Romney has to denounce every conservative or donor with goofy ideas is not a rule by which the Obama-Maher or Obama-Occupy or Obama-Van Jones ticket could live with. (You get the point.) If calling out cranks on your side was the sine qua non of moral courage, Obama would be throwing everyone from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg under the bus.

It’s the sort of campaign stunt that convinces no one who isn’t already a true believer. Average Americans likely aren’t aware that Trump is a Republican donor, and if they are they’ve become sophisticated enough to know that both sides have crackpot supporters. Courage is not jumping to denounce backers whenever the media barks; in fact, castigating every reckless supporter is the sort of spineless behavior that conveys squishiness and timidity. Moreover, with the economy on the rocks the focus on these tangential figures reeks of desperation. Rather than make Romney seems small, the spin makes the Obamaphiles seem out to lunch.

It is fascinating when you think about it. Obama’s supporters want him to run against people Romney’s isn’t running with, while Romney wants to run against what Obama has done (Obamacare, Solyndra, the stimulus). The implications of that are obvious to all but the Obama faithful.

And it brings us back to a major handicap for the Obama team: The sycophantic campaign team coupled with the rather tone-deaf loyalists in liberal media provide no useful advice or constructive criticism to the candidate. Unless liberals start leveling with the president about the shortcomings of his campaign gimmicks, his lack of an agenda and his failure to provide a compelling picture of his accomplishments, he is going to lose. It is that simple. If that happens, they can all blame third-party money or George W. Bush, but in fact it will be attributable to the zone of arrogance that encases Obama and his seeming conviction that voters are dopes.