Over the summer, Team Obama implemented its “Kill Romney” strategy.
They blanketed the airways in swing states with ads depicting Mitt Romney as an uncaring businessman who sucked the life out of the companies he acquired before bilking them for all they were worth and shutting them down. According to that narrative, Romney was a cold-hearted shark who didn’t give a damn for the lives of the workers whose jobs he callously destroyed.
A pro-Obama super PAC run by former White House staffers even ran an ad suggesting Romney was responsible for the death of the wife of one worker who was laid off from a company Romney’s Bain Capital acquired.
In a July interview about the confusion over exactly when Mitt Romney stopped presiding over Bain, Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter suggested the former Massachusetts governor might be a felon. If he wasn’t a felon, she said, then he was a liar.
And then there was the story of Romney’s dog Seamus, which he apparently tied to the top of a car in what Wikipedia describes as a “windshield-equipped carrier,” during a family road trip. Strange to be sure, but this became great fodder for the Obama campaign to impugn Romney’s character. At least it was, until The Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher pointed out that President Obama once ate a dog.
If all you were going by were the ads the Obama campaign was running and what their spokespeople were saying, you would come to the conclusion that Romney was a man born with a diamond spoon in his mouth who only got into politics so he could tax the Bejeezus out of the Middle Class, give his rich plutocrat friends tax breaks and legalize dog-fighting.
You might imagine that one day while picking out the design for his car garage it just dawned on him: “Honey, why don’t I give up my plush life and get into politics so I can soak the poor.”
Team Obama’s goal, of course, was to define Romney for voters in the swing states before Romney had a chance to define himself. At its heart, it was a desperate strategy.
The president surely would have preferred to run ads boasting about the roaring economy he had set in motion and the popular initiatives he signed into law. But the economy is hardly roaring and the president’s biggest achievements are decidedly unpopular. So all Obama could hope to do was paint his opponent as toxic. If it stuck, maybe he could win by default.
Despite the Obama team’s caricature of Romney bearing only superficial resemblance to the real Romney, the Romney campaign did not effectively counter it. Romney’s big coming out party was supposed to be the Republican National Convention in Tampa at the end of August, but that was a bust. Romney’s speech contained not a single memorable line.
Instead of featuring humanizing or inspiring stories of Romney in prime time — like the story of a leukemia-stricken boy Romney helped on his deathbed — America got actor Clint Eastwood’s rambling speech that became the focus of the next few days’ news coverage.
Romney also committed unforced errors that reinforced the Obama campaign’s caricature of him. Asked if he enjoyed NASCAR, Romney said that while he wasn’t a regular watcher, some of his good friends were NASCAR owners.
Romney’s refusal to release many years of his tax returns allowed the Obama campaign to suggest he was hiding something nefarious. Perhaps most destructive, a tape released of Romney at a tony fundraiser seemingly dismissing 47 percent of the American population — or at least, saying something that could be demagogued that way — provided ready-made ads for Team Obama.
As a result of all this, as well as polls showing Romney trailing the president, conservative commentators began decrying the Romney campaign’s incompetence, while liberal opinion makers began declaring the presidential race all but over.
Then came Wednesday night in Denver.