For the record, in my headline, the use of “Obama Camp” means more than just the actual Obama campaign. It also means Obama’s surrogates, supporters, and, of course, the media. But you already knew that.
Before we get started, though, I want to back up some because this isn’t meant to only be a har-har top ten list that’s fun to read and pass around. What I’m trying to do here is make a case for what I believe is the over-arching strategy of the Obama campaign and why I think, at least for now, it’s working pretty well.
Admittedly, there are all kinds of people much smarter than I out there making the case that Team Obama’s primary goal is to disqualify Mitt Romney by portraying him as a rich, venal, out-of-touch corporate raider determined to grab hold of presidential power in order to enslave the middle class. This, I think, is wrong. Those attacks are merely the tools the Obama campaign is using to attain a much bigger and more effective goal.
The real goal of the Obama campaign is to rob Romney of an aura of competence; to disqualify him in the minds of voters by making them believe Romney isn’t up to the job of being president. After all, voters will ask themselves consciously and subconsciously, if you can’t run a presidential campaign, how can you run the federal government and the military?
The tools by which the Obama campaign and the media are using to trip up Romney’s campaign and to undermine his competence are, however, these relentless attacks on his wealth, Bain, and taxes. And it’s just a fact that most of these attacks come in the form of audacious lies. But there’s no question that the hurling of these outrageous lies automatically puts Romney and his campaign into a defensive crouch — they look reactive, unable to get a message out, and therefore weak, unable to lead, and ineffective.
Obama’s overall goal isn’t to stereotype Romney as Scrooge McDuck, his overall goal is — by any means he can — to win the “Devil You Know” campaign. And if that’s your goal, one way to accomplish it is to keep Romney and his team forever on defense and explaining and smothered in distractions that never allow them to come up for oxygen and talk about a message. And it doesn’t matter how dirty or dishonest what your hurling is — all that matters is keeping your opponent off-balance so he looks foolish.
In a Daily Beast column today, Democrat operative Bob Shrum closes a lengthy piece about how Romney lost the summer with this observation:
Right now, Romney doesn’t just look like the uncaring and disconnected candidate from and for the privileged. At home as well as abroad, he seems to be yet another airhead son of a famous father. We’ve been there before. The battle of the summer is over–and Romney lost it.
I actually disagree with the part about Romney looking uncaring and disconnected. But the part about Romney looking like “yet another airhead son of a famous father” is revealing.
Essentially, what Obama knows is that American voters forgive dirty politics. What they don’t forgive, however, is weakness and incompetence. What Obama knows is that the one complaining about dirty politics is never the one who ends up victorious on election day.
Given a choice between a competent liar and an “airhead,” voters never choose the airhead.
With that in mind, here’s the arsenal Romney’s been hit with thus far:
1. Romney Killed My Wife — This howler, courtesy of a pro-Obama super PAC, has sucked most of the oxygen out of yesterday and today’s news narrative. In-between denouncing the ad, Romney’s attempting to work through the clutter of this distraction to hit Obama for dismantling welfare reform.
3. Romney’s Gaffe-tastic Overseas Escapades — To make Romney look like a stumble-bum and destroy any hope he had of looking presidential or like a statesman, the corrupt media created gaffes out of whole cloth, going so far as to make Ugly American spectacles of themselves on sanctified ground. The Narrative was set and executed brilliantly.
4. Romney Will Crush the Middle Class With Tax Increases — Both the media and Obama campaign have teamed up to use a phony study (co-authored by a former Obama official) to accuse Romney of planning to cut taxes for the wealthy and raise taxes on the middle class. Lies don’t get much bigger than this, but Romney’s had to be out there defensively explaining why this isn’t true ever since.
5. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’s McCarthyism — This sinister but undeniably brilliant tactic sucked up six-days of the news-cycle and was a total and complete victory for the Obama campaign. For six-days we talked about Romney’s taxes and not about Obama’s failures. Reid, who has no plans to run for reelection, took all the fire and Obama floated above it all. Genius.
6. Romney’s a Felon — Both DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Senior Obama Campaign Advisor Stephanie Cutter used the word “felon” to describe Mitt Romney’s association with Bain. This sucked the air out of three-days worth of news-cycles and while the media cried foul, they also made sure Obama paid no political price whatsoever. Moreover, Romney was reduced to a man demanding an apology. Another total win for Team Obama.
7. Romney Opposes Abortion Exceptions For Rape and incest Victims — This ad comes straight from the Obama campaign, not a surrogate. It’s another brazen, bald-faced lie that makes Romney look extreme and that the media has made sure Obama pays no political price for telling.
8. Romney the Gay-bashing Prep School As*hole – In another blatantly false anti-Romney attack obviously coordinated between the Obama campaign and the Washington Post, the Post reaches back a half-century to Romney’s mind and declare it homophobic.
9. Romney’s More Secretive Than Nixon — This one explains itself.
10. That’s Racist – This narrative is just starting to bubble up again. Chris Matthews was all over it last night and The New Yorker hit the theme that Romney’s criticism of Obama dismantling welfare reform is racially based. And that’s just the most recent example.
There are very few people I know who want Barack Obama out of office more than my father, a working class retiree in the swing state of Wisconsin who, like most Americans, doesn’t follow politics beyond the local news. But he cares about his country, he sees what Obama is doing to it, and he wants him out. And yet…
Yesterday, my dad and I talked a little bit about the election and he called Romney an “idiot.” He didn’t call Romney a “rich, heartless asshole,” he called him an “idiot” who can’t seem to do anything right.
This is a problem.
To be clear, no one’s saying the campaign is lost. Far from it. We have a LONG way to go and these are the dead days of August — conventions, debates lie ahead — and Romney has yet to start taking advantage of his pile of cash. But for right now, tactically, Obama’s won the last six weeks, and in the process, widened his lead over Romney.
For right now, at least, Obama’s audacious lies are winning.
UPDATE: Someone in the comments asked why I’m not offering ideas to the Rommey campaign instead of just pointing out problems. Simple answer: I’m not smarter than the Romney campaign.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC