The Obama Campaign’s senior strategist, David Axelrod, held a midday conference call with reporters on Wednesday that was mostly focused on coming up with new ways of calling Mitt Romney a rudderless panderer without any fixed principles. He even went so far as to quote George Burns: “All you need to succeed in show business is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
Except, Axelrod says he doesn’t think Romney has it made, since campaigns are not the same as show business. They are “MRIs for the soul.” And with Romney, “Consistency has never been the hallmark of his career.” He has “changed positions on fundamental questions of principle.” He called the flip-flopping “brazen,” and said the positioning “is going to become more difficult” for Romney. It went on. Axelrod even criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry for doing a lousy job of highlighting Romney’s flip flops. “He hasn’t exactly gotten the gun out of the holster,” Axelrod said.
Why the early full-on offensive against Romney? In short, the Obama campaign has been watching the Republican presidential debates too, and they have plenty of reason to be worried about what they see. Romney is confident, controlled and commanding. None of his rivals have been able to lay a glove on him. What’s more, this has allowed Romney to play not to the Republican base, but to the general electorate. In the last several debates, Romney has positioned himself as a defender of the middle class, in language straight out of a Democratic focus group. “If I’m going to use precious dollars to reduce taxes,” Romney said Tuesday night in New Hampshire, after getting a question about his plan to cut Capital Gains taxes for middle income Americans. “I want to focus on where the people are hurting the most, and that’s the middle class.”
The result has been Romney getting a free ride, and that is something that Democrats cannot stomach, especially with the economy where it is and headed where it’s going. The downside for the Obama campaign is that the shock and awe of a major Democratic offensive next spring might be diminished by rolling out the attacks in Autumn. But that may be a small price to pay if it helps dent the growing sense of inevitability that Romney has successfully fostered.