It is fast becoming a 2012 campaign tradition: When Mitt Romney has a good news cycle or two, the Obama campaign calls together reporters covering the race to poke holes in his potential. On Wednesday, the day after Romney won the Iowa caucuses, the campaign responded with a conference call starring senior strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager Jim Messina. As with other such meetings, it was an artful combination of metrics—7,500 pledged volunteers to support Obama in Iowa—and political attacks. “There is a lack of trust in Governor Romney,” ran one predictable line.
But rather than lay out the transcript, here is a quick guide to the key language and concepts—call them the battle axes of Axelrod—that the campaign threw Romney’s way. Consider it a glossary of sorts. And count on the fact that it will continue to grow.
(PHOTOS: The Rich History of Mitt Romney)
25% Man. The idea here is that no matter how clear the nomination path may seem for Romney, the press and the American people need to remained focused on Romney’s inability to get the support of a majority of his own party. (In Iowa, as in other national polls, he mustered about 25%.) It leads directly to a discussion of what is wrong with Romney, which is the discussion Team Obama wants to be having. “You have the larger issue of credibility,” explained Axelrod, “and whether people buy his positioning.”
Charlatan. The most striking insults in politics tend to come as an aside. Near the end of the call, Axelrod said this about Romney: “Taking two positions on every issue, one on the left and one on the far right, doesn’t make you a moderate. It makes you a charlatan.” Kaboom.
Financial Engineer. Consider this the newest political epithet of 2012, a term of our times. It is meant to call to mind a precocious whiz kids who built the collateral debt bombs in the bowels of banks like Goldman Sachs that blew up the economy. And it is how Team Obama plans to describe Romney’s work at Bain Capital, the private equity firm where he made most of his money. Romney, of course, claims that he was not just moving money in ways that enrich the few and deprive the many, but making companies that produced jobs and wealth for all. Both are right, in part. The world is that complex. Expect to hear a lot more on this topic.
Monkey Up The Pole Test. This zinger comes from an old political saw Axelrod picked up in the trenches of Chicago politics. The higher a monkey goes up the pole, the line goes, the easier it is to see his, um, underparts. In this context, it means that the more the American people get to know about candidates like Romney and his Republican rivals as they ascend to the nomination, the less they may like of the view. If you have to ask, yes, the Obama campaign takes it as a given that Obama has already been sitting atop the poll for some time, though Romney’s strategists would disagree. They plan to turn on their own spotlight.
Robotically. Axelrod dropped this adverb casually, like a $1bill on the floor of a casino. “He robotically repeats the word middle class whenever he gets a chance,” Axelrod said of Romney. The one word contains so much: Automatically, without human emotion, empathy or authenticity. That is the meta-script on Romney.
Secret Air Force. The description of the pro-Romney super-PAC money that Axelrod said was “carpet bombing” Iowa. Technically, Romney does not control this money, but there is significant evidence that he condones it. And Team Obama has an interest in bracketing the super-PAC spending as a bad thing before the ordinance is dropped on the President.