The Romney-Ryan campaign has now thrown down the gauntlet to the Obama campaign. The choice in the 2012 election is now between a substance-driven race, and vicious and shameful misdirection. In so many words, Romney-Ryan tells the Obama campaign that if the American people are supposed to take them seriously, they should start discussing the issues in serious manner.
Ryan Williams, Romney Campaign Spokesman, nailed it:
“Three years ago, President Obama warned of politicians trying to ‘scare the heck out of folks’ with ‘bogeymen’ in an effort to maintain the status quo. With the economy in a slump and unemployment at a five-month high, the Obama campaign and its allies have resorted to the same shameful attacks they used to decry. Americans deserve better from their president – they deserve the type of leadership that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will bring to Washington.”
The Obama campaign is now hoist by its own petard; three years ago, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Obama pontificated: “Because the way politics works sometimes is that people who want to keep things the way they are will try to scare the heck out of folks, and they'll create bogeymen out there that just aren't real.”
Contrast that with the incredibly vicious ad run by the super PAC Priorities USA on behalf of Obama that claimed Mitt Romney was responsible for the death of Joe Soptic’s wife. There was shock and disgust across the political spectrum over the content of the ad; even outlets normally in the tank for Obama professed to be horrified:
Washington Post: “Joe Soptic, a former steelworker, makes yet another appearance in a pro-Obama ad, this time for the Super PAC Priorities USA Action. …Most controversially, Soptic this time appears to blame Romney for the death of his wife after he lost his health insurance when the steel plant closed.”
ABC’s Jonathan Karl: “But the single most outrageous ad of the campaign comes from a Super PAC supporting the president and run by his former spokesman.”
Former Clinton Adviser Lanny Davis: “Bill Burton Needs To Go Back To Ethics School … The Ad Is Misleading And Disgusting …Bill Burton needs to go back to ethics school. … He knows perfectly well that the ad is misleading and disgusting and he needs to apologize for it.”
Chicago Tribune: “What A Vicious, Shameful Ad … A Disgrace.” “What a vicious, shameful ad. … Mr. President, lift the campaign. Call this ad what it is: a disgrace.”
CBS News’ Brian Montopoli: “Not True … Nasty…” “The story is certainly affecting, and it fits into the Obama camp's narrative that Romney doesn't care about working people. There's just one big problem: It's not true. … And the Obama campaign's refusal to disavow the spot speaks to just how nasty the campaign has already gotten - a full three months before Election Day.”
Of course, the Obama campaign denied knowing anything about his story: “Obama campaign officials have refused to disavow the ad, claiming independence from the outside group and no knowledge of the woman’s story.”
That was a bald-faced lie; they had featured the story on their website as well as spoken to Soptic on a conference call about his wife.
Romney and Ryan can’t wait to debate the actual issues with Obama and Biden; the two men are true policy wonks and very sharp intellectually, which is usually the way Democrats try to portray themselves (remember Carter’s supposed brilliance when he ran? Clinton’s? Obama’s?). Ryan is the combination the Democrats most fear. He comes across as sincere, which negates the Democrat’s traditional charges of uncaring; he comes off as smart, which will disarm a media intent on Palinizing any VP candidate; and he comes off as honest.
Ryan called Obama’s bluff this way: “We don’t need attack, we don’t need blame — we need leadership. President Obama can’t run on his record, because it’s a terrible thing to run on.” And his selection made it quite clear that Obama won’t be able to duck the issues now: “The selection of Ryan, a budget and policy wonk with a penchant for drawing charts to drive home key points, has the potential to transform the presidential campaign … into a more substance-driven race.”
Obama and Biden can’t hide any more.