I can’t say for certain that Romney’s strategy is wrong. But I do think it’s far riskier than we realize. Treating Obama as a nice guy in over his head, rather than a smart leftist who knows exactly what he’s doing, leaves the Democrats’ bogus narrative about government unanswered. America is changing, and Republicans are naive to rely on the public to simply recognize the problems in the Democrats’ claims without significant help from our nominee.
Republicans won big in 2010 by defining Obama as an overweening ideologue. Yet that was the Tea Party’s doing, not the Republican establishment. In those days, Romney even jumped on the tea-party bandwagon with some surprisingly cutting observations about Obama’s leftism. Obama may not have pivoted after the 2010 election, but Republicans did. They toned down their attacks on the president’s ideology, and to some extent helped to build up the very wall of “likeability” they now fear to scale, even as the president rejected the Clintonian way and stayed to the left. Were Republicans smart to hold their fire? Romney did try out the argument that Obama is moving us toward European-style social democracy during the primaries, but he’s dropped that now in favor of the kinder and gentler “break up” approach.
Translation: GET IN THE MUD LIKE A PIG, SON. And I hope Romney takes Kurtz's advice. It'll be a disaster for him, because nobody likes the guy.
On the other hand, BooMan points out that if Obama really was more like Clinton, he would have cracked by now and he would have caved on everything instead of setting the GOP up for a huge failure this fall.
Remember that the Republicans won big in 1994 by defining Clinton as an overweening ideologue. And Clinton responded by bringing in Dick Morris, signing a horrible welfare reform bill, the Balanced Budget Act, the Iraq Liberation Act, and disastrously deregulating the banks. The Republicans attempted to bully Barack Obama in a similar manner, but so far they have got nothing. Had they been willing to make some concessions on revenue, they probably would have found some willingness on Obama's part to emulate Clinton, at least to a point. But they weren't, and he didn't. So, as a result, conservatives like Mr. Kurtz see Obama as having "rejected the Clintonian way." He didn't pivot after suffering catastrophic losses in the midterm election.
I find this less interesting for its literal truth that for the way it shines a light on the Republicans' strategic thinking. There is a bit of a meld. On the one hand, regardless of the Democratic president in the White House, the playbook says to refuse cooperation and to paint them as a far-left ideologue. On the other hand, the Republicans in charge of executing this play have a strong tendency to come around to believing it's true and real. They didn't stop thinking Bill Clinton was a far-left ideologue when he started signing their legislation. They only acknowledge a "Clintonian way" in retrospect.
So yes, I think we're going to get to the ni-CLANG moment really soon now, especially now that it appears Obama is going to win.