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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  And use Rmoney as (8+ / 0-)

    the perfect example of what's wrong with the right wing Taliban: tax policy that favors the 1 percent, fiscal slight-of-hand that destroyed a generation worth of wealth for the middle class, social policies that interfere everywhere they're not welcome, ad nauseum.

    Chaos. It's not just a theory.

    by PBnJ on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 02:24:06 PM PDT

  •  I would argue that the entire convention (13+ / 0-)

    was written and produced to set up that compare-and-contrast examination of Dem vs. 'Pub philosophies, and worked well.

    Your thinking appears to match that of senior OFA and DNC actors.

    (It's also a big help when 'Pubs do things like voting down Vets' Job Corps as their last official act before running off to campaign.)

    We've been wondering how to get through the clutter and reach low-information voters. Mitt haz it.

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 02:26:40 PM PDT

  •  I think its better to use (9+ / 0-)

    "Republicans in Washington/Republican leaders" rather than the plain generic "republicans" Lest Pres Obama be accused of slighting "half the electorate"

    But I agree with your overall thesis - discredit the GOPer philosophy.

    And Pres Obama has already started it by the way - mocking tax cuts as a panacea for all that ails the country.

    On Foriegn policy Pres Obama must be careful while critiquing the GOPer war mongering theology that was refined by the Kagans and wolfowitwitzes etc. But he should do it.

  •  I think the President has always believed that all (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    Republicans are essentially the same because they support the same policies.  I think you will see sharp policy critiques by the President not attacks on Romney's taxes, but he will get 1 or 2 digs in there where appropriate.  Bill Clinton in his appearances today basically told Jim Lehrer that it would be malfeasance not to ask Romney a question on the 47% issue, so that will put Romney on the defensive and give the President the opening to present the message of the convention.

    Alternative rock with something to say:

    by khyber900 on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 02:39:28 PM PDT

  •  Don't go after generic "Republicans" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn

    Too many people self identify on that by habit, or even inclination; but are not happy with Mitt and even possibly considering a vote for Obama. No point in tarring them all with the same broad brush.  The Republicans essentially asked for a contest between visions for the country, and it's not a personal attack on Mitt to speak to his vision, or the vision he represents, or his policy positions, etc.

    In addition, I suspect Bill Clinton's strategy advice is pretty well thought out.

    " can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem." Mitt Romney

    by Catte Nappe on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 02:47:17 PM PDT

  •  You're entirely right (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn, mperloe

    Probably Obama will win big. How this victory is framed will be important for the down-ticket races and for the future of the GOP and the ideological aftermath of the elections.

    This must be a defeat of the conservative ideology. For that, Obama must attack Mitt as the standardbearer of that ideology, not as the individual.

    In fact Mitt has already done most of the job; as an individual, he's an embarassment, no need to harp on that. Even republicans acknowledge that. With the videos of the fundraiser, Mitt has shown that he despises those who don't belong to his class. Conservatives freak out about that, because they pretend that helping the rich will eventually help the poor; they're already not convincing when they say that but it's their dogma; now Mitt said quite candidly he doesn't care at all about the rabble.

    Romney is tied. Obama is free.

    by French Imp on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 03:02:19 PM PDT

  •  Yes. If Obama wants to be effective in his second (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch, mperloe, greengemini

    term, he is going to need support in Congress. If his attack on Romney is that he is a a bad person (incompetent, untrustworthy, uncaring, etc.) that doesn't carry over to the downticket even if it is effective.

    If his attack on Romney is that he is the standard bearer for Republican ideas that are anathema to most of the country, that does give a reason to vote a straight Democratic ticket.

    I think that Clinton and the diary are right on.

  •  IMHO, US politics are personality-driven. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Many posters at DKos, if not most, are partisans - we see everything not just as individual personalities - Bush v. Kerry, Obama v. McCain/Romney, but as part of the underlying struggle in America between conservative and liberal, GOP v. Democratic Party, etc.

    But I'm struck by how few undecided voters there are left.  If they were going to decide based on issues, they would've and could've done so already.  I think those few voters are looking for personality, and thus our system unfortunately makes the debate a poor place to try to win a debate against an entire party.  Anyhow, the debates are less and less actual debates but moreso competing monologues.  Interesting, but for me at least only interesting when they go off-script.  We know Obama's stump speech and its variations, and unfortunately we know Romney's too.

    Anyhow, attack the GOP as a monolithic conservative party and they'll trot out a couple New Englanders.  Sure, we could answer that attack, but then we're having the debate on their turf.

    The decided voters are going to watch the debates and see what we want to see.  That's just the way the mind works.  The undecideds, imho, are looking for the intangibles, they're not interested in how many billions Romney will cut from the deficit or how many millions ACA is going to give health care too, they want to see how the two act.

    There's something to it, imho - I think it will doom Romney because when he acts naturally, he shows himself as archconservative, like in that Florida tape; when he tries to be Moderate Mitt, he's really quite wooden, fake, and pretty forced.  Res ipsa loquitor - I think if Obama were losing, he might be able to use the debates to pull off a win, but I haven't seen a side of Romney that would do better than tread water.

    As to downballot races, I think many of those races are personality-driven too and most of them are baked in due to districting anyhow.  But statistics, to my memory, do show that an undecided or unlikely voter show shows up to vote for a candidate is somewhat more likely to vote for other people in that candidate's party, if they vote downballot at all (many don't).  So running up the score against Mitt may be one of the best tools Obama has to move equally rigid Congressional races.

    "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

    by auron renouille on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 03:59:48 PM PDT

  •  It's Time for Obama to Work on Turning the House (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Clinton is absolutely correct. It is time to switch the race to focus on the Republican brand. Many people wonder if Romney is not the moderate hiding his true moderate nature until after the election. In fact, the problem is not simply Romney, it is the entire cast of characters that would be empowered by his winning the election. I hope he will do all in his power to lengthen and broaden his coat tails. Then after the election, hold the Blue Dog Dems' feet to the fire to get them to support a more progressive action plan.

    I'd buy Medicare rather than regular insurance given the option.

    by mperloe on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 04:31:50 PM PDT

  •  Mitt is merely a representative republican (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The goal in this election should be to trash the whole republican party.  Big Bill has it wholly correct, and the timing is perfect.  At about the time that the voters might be tempted to sympathize with Romney for being such a looser, the attack should broaden.  They have given us more than enough ammunition with the Ryan budget and the party platform.  Everybody already knows that Romney can't say the same thing twice in a row, and we don't need to run in circles about it.  An attack on the general republican perspective and goals will serve greatly in down ticket races.

    Bene Scriptum, Bene Intellectum.

    by T C Gibian on Sun Sep 23, 2012 at 05:04:08 PM PDT

  •  To a small degree, I respectfully disagree (0+ / 0-)

    There is a deep divide in the GOP and President Obama is artfully and expertly causing those fault lines to widen. He is the only person in the country capable of uniting them at this point. His comportment in the next 2 months, including the debates, is critical to further balkanizing an already fractured GOP.

    As for the rest of us, his loyal minions, we can focus on downballot races and hammer the current GOP ideology; in fact, that is one of our primary responsibilities. We are a million Joe Bidens, we can ignore Mitt, pummel other Republican candidates, and focus on their ideology. Why?

    Because no matter what any of us say there is only one person in America who can galvanize the splintering GOP.

    President Obama.

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