Matt Lewis

Why Barack Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney could backfire

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins is out with a column this morning alleging that Mitt Romney has finally decided to “take the gloves off.”

This is hardly the first time someone has written on this subject. But Coppins might be the first to provide specifics, reporting that Romney is going to start attacking Obama on his “youthful drug habit,” sketchy Chicago background, and the Fast and Furious gun running scandal, etc.

One Romney source reportedly told Coppins the Romney campaign is “now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal.”

So now Romney’s prepared to to go eye for an eye?

This makes it sound like Romney was surprised — and personally wounded — by the attacks … but now that he’s “livid,” Romney will finally — reluctantly! — fight back.

If that’s true, it’s evidence of incredible naïveté. Did Romney really expect this to be a cordial affair?

The theory that Romney fights back harder when he’s mad seems to fit his M.O. Remember how he fought back in Florida after Newt Gingrich won South Carolina? Lesson: Don’t make him angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

While we’re making lemons out of lemonade here, another Romney adviser tells Coppins that, “Obama has always benefited from being able to shape the argument such that he avoided harsh negative attacks … They are now taunting how tough they are. OK, but once you cross that line, there is no going back.”

I’m not convinced that talking about Obama’s past drug use will work. In fact, I think it’s stupid. A better idea, it seems to me, is to discuss Obama’s recent comment that, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen.”

If Romney wants to go negative, why not exploit a substantive gaffe that highlights how Obama’s worldview is impacting the economy? (In fact, Romney is doing just that.)

Regardless, it might just turn out that enduring Team Obama’s relentless, negative attacks this summer will ultimately help Romney. It means he won’t be surprised again by the viciousness of attacks come autumn. And maybe it also prepares the public for Romney’s attacks on Obama …