I read about how some of Obama's staff had a meeting with Bill Clinton, where he recommended attacking Romney as right-wing instead of a flip-flopper. His rationale was, he wanted those punches to land, turning off moderate people. Where the flip-flopper attacks might land but lead people to say, "Well, maybe he's not so bad as he can sometimes sound..." and imagine him as the moderate Republican he once professed to be.
Clinton was taking the long view. Not the opportunistic, "Here's an opening for a valid attack, so I'm gonna use it," but a more strategic, long-term game plan.
I'm hearing people say lately that Obama's got the lead, and now we need to run up the score. That's true, all well and good, so far as it goes. But how we run up the score will have both short- and long-term consequences. Follow below the fold for more.
When Romney did his Libya freakout, I was right there enjoying Obama's response on 60 Minutes - that Romney seems to shoot first and aim later. We scored a point! Woot.
But as I think about it, Romney isn't our real problem. No single person is. The whole Republican party is our problem, and all their crazy ideas. So I think it's misplaced to spend too much time on Romney attacks, or "my opponent," or what have you. (Personal attacks also run the risk of making Obama look petty, undignified, etc, when we want him looking likeable, classy, and presidential.) I'd avoid attacking Romney-the-man unless the opening is just too good to pass up. A fun "shoot first, aim later" line - which doesn't fit into any larger anti-Romney narrative - isn't worth the airtime.
Now, what if Obama had said, "You know, Republicans always talk a big talk on foreign policy. Mitt Romney is no different..." and carried it into an attack on the larger meme that Republicans keep America safe and Democrats don't? It would have turned Obama's counterpunch into an attack on the Republican brand as a whole, and on Mitt as a representative Republican. And on every other Republican running a race for Congress, or the House, all the way down (up?) to county dogcatcher.
In the debates, this means Obama would pay less attention to Mitt's taxes and foreign bank accounts, more to Republican ideology, the Supreme Court picks that brought us Citizens United, and the fact we can't trust their public statements because the math doesn't add up. I'm hearing some of that with attacks like, "Got a headache? Take two tax cuts and call me in the morning." But not enough.
Keep it up. Sure, run up the score by working for downballot races - but don't pass up the opportunity to trash their entire party while we're at it. Talk about "today's Republican's" so people can separate our lovely current GOP from whomever they used to like/vote for/believe in. Hit Romney, Scott Brown, and Josh Mandel all at the same time. Land punches that won't just matter for the next six weeks, but for years to come.
Forget Romney. Ignore him, insofar as any of the focus is on him personally. Re-focus on him only as the standard-bearer for a party that once looked great and powerful... but is increasingly revealed to be nothing but an ugly, shameless man behind the curtain.