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Democratic attacks against Romney a sign of desperation

Posted by Alan Wirzbicki  August 11, 2011 12:34 PM

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-1.jpgWeird is another word for Mormon.

Ben Smith of Politico reports that Democrats are planning a "ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney's character and business background." Romney will be portrayed as "inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama's advisers in about a dozen interviews, 'weird.'"

The weirdness factor is officially defined as Romney's personal awkwardness, illustrated by some of the stranger anecdotes collected about the former Massachusetts governor — such as the one about him strapping his dog to the roof of his car.

Unofficially, it also seems like a way to remind voters of Romney's Mormon religion — when it can still hurt him in Republican primaries. Denying that is the intent has the practical effect of raising it as an issue.

This is a clear sign of early desperation on the part of President Obama's campaign team. At least President George W. Bush waited until John Kerry won a few primaries before his campaign started its attack on the Democrat who would ultimately win his party's nomination. With polls and the Dow headed in the wrong direction, Team Obama obviously believes it can't afford to wait to try to take down Romney. So the president's political advisors are announcing Obama's re-election campaign will get ugly fast.

What a flawed strategy.

For one thing, it illustrates a key difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats announce their plans to get nasty. Republicans just get nasty, which is much more effective. The press loves to cover negative charges. Just lob them and watch the media go after nefarious nuggets like dogs chasing a frisbee. Before you can say, "Look, I'm not going to pick on an invalid" — as Ronald Reagan remarked about Michael Dukakis when the Democrats were going up against then Vice President George H.W. Bush — an opponent can be easily marginalized, and then destroyed. The Bush team did it to Kerry, not by announcing they would attack Kerry's war record, but by attacking it via surrogates.

By signalling what they plan to do, the strategy also undercuts the Democrats ability to cite unfair attacks against Obama.

The legitimacy of Obama's presidency has been challenged since his 2008 victory. Obama's citizenship has been question. He has been called "unAmerican" and accused of being a secret Muslim. It's another variation of the "weird" label and in Obama's case, it is often accurately described as racist. If it so offensive, how can Obama justify using a version of it so openly against a rival?

Stupid question. He wants to win and his brilliant strategists are telling him this is how to do it. It's not.

There are legitimate grounds of political attack against Romney. Show how much of his record as businessman involves dismantling jobs rather than creating them. Pull apart the myth of his governorship in Massachusetts. Remind voters of his prolific flip-flopping (and be ready to explain Obama's).

David Axelrod is right when says that presidential campaigns are like "MRIs of the soul". After all the debates, interviews and press scrutiny, voters will reach their own conclusions when it comes to weirdness. Obama can't count on it as the way to defeat Romney. After all, Obama was able to win even though opponents portrayed him that way. It didn't matter because they believed he was the right leader for the times.

What's really weird right now is Obama's inability to outline a coherent vision or deliver a speech that connects with people.

If he doesn't do it soon, a country that elected its first black president could next elect its first Mormon president. How weird is that?

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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